If tomorrow’s forecast called for rain, you would bring an umbrella, right? The same preparedness applies to brainstorming and collaboration. If you want to develop a hurricane of ideas, you’ll need the right variables. And it all begins with a rain dance — you have to inspire others to channel the right energy. As soon as it starts to storm, break out the whiteboards and soak up the flood of ideas. Most importantly, allow the storm cloud to travel beyond your office. That is often when the most powerful lightning will strike.
Brainstorming sessions, when done correctly, can be one of the most powerful tools in your business. Oftentimes, however, a meeting held with the intention of generating groundbreaking ideas can turn into an hour of wasted time and you’re left scratching your head over what went wrong.
Here at Brandberry, we make it rain cats and dogs, so let me share what it is that makes our brainstorming sessions so successful.
Switch things up.
The most productive brainstorming sessions occur when there is a vibrant and palpable energy in the room. Creative juices rarely flow on command, especially after a day filled with emails and packed to-do lists. This is why transforming your workplace is vital. Don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit. Go off site for your session, incorporate props, magazines, or other inspiring visuals. And turn off those cell phones. You want your team to be 100 percent present.
Warm up the room.
Do you remember when your favorite elementary school teacher would begin the day with a hands-on activity? We may not be kids anymore, but that same concept still applies. Every now and then, we could use an interruption from the routine. Start your sessions off with a warm up exercise. Get creative; have your team compile a list of the five worst things to discover in the trunk your car, or play a wild round of Mad Libs. Make them laugh and get their blood flowing. You’re guaranteed to see those mental gears begin to churn.
Write everything down.
Everyone should be taking notes. The faster the ideas begin to flow, the more difficult it can become for each opinion to be heard, so encourage your team to write down any and all thoughts they have for future reference. Make it fun by incorporating unconventional ways to jot down ideas. Go ahead and cover the table with a roll of paper or plaster giant sticky notes on the wall to be inscribed upon with oversize markers. Remember, imagination breeds ingenuity, so don’t discourage doodling. Some of Brandberry’s best ideas have derived from the random scribblings drawn during team meetings.
Set the tone.
While it is important to arrange certain parameters in order to ensure productive meetings, avoid making too many rules. This can restrict innovation. Urge participation from all levels of the company. If you limit your contributors to a room full of senior executives, you will likely miss out on a multitude of valuable opinions and diverse perspectives. Set the tone from the beginning to be that of a relaxed, think tank assembly. Don’t make it competitive but rather create a safe space for any and all ideas to be shared. Sometimes the best ideas are the craziest ones.
Allow it to continue.
The ideas don’t have to stop flowing the second the meeting is over. Some of the best ideas originate in the shower, before you go to bed, or while driving — basically any time you’re not working. This is why digital platforms that allow the conversation to continue past the original brainstorm session are so valuable.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Ashley Mady, president of Brandberry, is a brand builder with a proven track record in design, marketing, licensing and merchandising. A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog. Connect with @KickAshMady on Twitter.
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