Crafting The Perfect Brain-Storm

Let’s be real, brainstorming is an overused buzzword.

Really, what does it even mean?  When someone says “let’s brainstorm”, I take it as “let’s sit here in awkward silence for a few minutes and then run with whatever idea I had in my head in the first place”.

Because no one can come up with anything better.

It’s as if we think by focusing really hard on one specific thing for a few moments, we can turn air into gold when, for all intents and purposes, that’s impossible.

Great ideas take time, energy, and thinking out loud rather sitting in silence.  It involves speaking your mind even at the risk of sounding like an idiot.  So here at Radiate Digital, we’re redefining our methods of brainstorming.

In doing so, we’re finding that good brainstorming has more a little more structure than you might think.

marker board table

The single greatest purchase we have ever made

Radiate Digital’s Tips for Brainstorming

1. Set a Time

Give some advanced noticed to the people involved.  That way they can get their minds ready for what’s going to be discussed.  Tell them what you’re trying to figure out and have them ready to share something.

Also, have an end time set.  Aimless brainstorming can go on forever.  If you force people to think within a given time frame, they’ll be more efficient in what they say and less likely to wait around for other ideas first.

2. Make it Special

Don’t have the session at your desk or at your employees desk.  The desk is a place of rigorous (sometimes almost robotic) work.  It isn’t typically freeing or thought provoking.  Get everyone up and away from their stations.  The point of brainstorming is to come up with new ideas.  A new environment is more likely to make this happen.

3. Keep it Relevant

You don’t need to involve every staff member in every meeting.  If you’re bringing over people from other projects/departments, you’re likely to lose time explaining basic information and telling them what you can/can’t do, not to mention increasing chances of serious distraction.

That said, more heads can certainly equal more ideas.  In a brainstorming session, quantity outweighs quality.  It’s up to you to decide who needs to be there and who doesn’t.

4. Be Bold (Make it Safe)

When brainstorming, you don’t want people afraid to share.  The bolder and crazier the ideas, the more likely you’ll have a breakthrough.  After all, most breakthroughs come from ideas others thought were too crazy.

In order to make this happen, you have to establish initial brainstorming sessions as a safe zone.  People won’t be made fun of or told that they’re an idiot.  It’s a situation where there’s no such thing as a stupid idea.

5. Write it Down. Draw it Out.

Words are heard and forgotten.  It’s not till their actually inscribed that they gain physical presence.  This is way meetings have someone taking notes and courtrooms have court reporters.  But why have just one person keeping track when you can have everyone?

In our offices, we’ve recently added what will surely become our most prized possession:

The white board table!

Seriously, it’s amazing.  Did you see that picture up there?  It’s a white board that everyone can sit around and write on simultaneously.  We have full confidence this will revolutionize the way we plan and discuss almost everything.  Even if you don’t have an awesome table like us, it’s good to write down your ideas and draw out your thoughts.

6. Let it Simmer

Who say’s brainstorming has to happen in one day?  Dumb people, that’s who.  Once you’ve reached the end of your session, leave it all on the table and walk away.

Then come back to it.

I used to draw a lot.  As weird as this may sound, I could rarely tell if a picture was any good while I drew it.  Usually, it wasn’t until I returned to the drawing that I realized either “wow, this is fantastic” or “oh my Lord, this is ugly”.

It’s the same with your ideas.  When you’re mid thought, you lack perspective.  It’s not until you return with your mind reset that you see things as they truly are.  Don’t be afraid to stop and come back to your ideas.

And Once You Have Your Awesome Ideas….

The planning begins.  For advice on that, I’ll give you this awesome guide to successful execution courtesy of Distilled Marketing.  Just substitute the “Excited SEOs” with whatever field you work in.  (PS. USP stands for “unique selling point”)

from Distilled Online Marketing


And if brainstorming fails, there’s always blamestorming….

Written by Timothy Snyder
on December 18, 2012