You know the old saying, “Two heads are better than one”? While it’s true in most areas of life, it’s especially true in marketing; a field where you constantly need to be thinking of innovative ways to adapt to new technology and changing consumer tastes. These problems require a whole lot of creativity to solve them and the best way to harness that creativity is with a good old fashioned brainstorm.
When I worked as a copywriting intern for an advertising agency, I sat in on many brainstorming sessions and learned the best practices for how to make one successful. Here are some things I picked up that you can use to bring out the best of your team during your next brainstorm.
Location is key. You’ll want to find a space that’s open and big enough so that your group can comfortably fit. Try and have it take place in a neutral setting, like a conference room or even outside if weather permits. Stay away from holding the brainstorm in a personal office or cubicle, where the conversations typically have the boss/employee dynamic. This can lead to the brainstorm having this dynamic as well, with people not feeling comfortable to share their ideas openly.
Kicking things off
There are few things more uncomfortable than a group of people sitting together, waiting for that first person to break the awkward silence. That’s why our Creative Director would always start every brainstorm off by cracking a joke or throwing out some ridiculous idea. This (usually) wasn’t meant to be an actual solution for the problem at hand but meant to be an icebreaker to get the room relaxed or in an “atmosphere of creativity” as he called it.
Having a designated writer/recorder is crucial. With so many ideas flying around, you’re bound to miss a good 50% of them if you don’t write them down. You can do this in a number of ways; from writing them on a dry-erase board, taking notes by hand or even recording the brainstorm and transcribing it later. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as all ideas are accounted for.
Stay on track
It’s fine and even encouraged to goof around a little bit during a brainstorm. But that goofing around can easily turn into a 20-minute conversation about the outcome of last night’s game. If someone doesn’t already have this role, designate a wrangler that’s comfortable with telling people to cut off their side conversations and to get back at the task at hand.
If you don’t have anything nice to say…
Lastly, (and most importantly) we had a no judgment rule in place. During brainstorms, you want as many ideas out there as possible and if your team is spending the whole time criticizing and critiquing every idea, you’re missing the whole point of the exercise, which is quantity, not quality.
Even if a coworker shouts out the absolute worst idea you’ve ever heard in your life, reserve your criticism for later. Why? Because someone could piggyback off that bad idea into the concept you’ll end up basing your next marketing campaign around.
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