Today’s Forecast: 100% Chance of Severe Brainstorms

People hear the word brainstorm and think it’s walking into a room, giving a team a prompt and after an hour or so, the next million-dollar idea magically appears. Maybe this isn’t fully unique to other organizations, but our experience tells us the quality of ideas delivered can often reflect the quality of the work put in prior to the brainstorm. If there’s no goal established, (we prefer a goal that’s measurable), you may think you have a lot of great, out-of-the-box ideas. Later, however, when you sit down to sort through, you may find none of them are feasible because they don’t contribute to your business strategy or goals. Million-dollar ideas don’t have to be the craziest, but rather the ones that get your business or client closer to an overall goal.

New ideas are easy to break and need time to grow. Structuring a brainstorming environment should be the first step (in our opinion) to grow those ideas to see if they’ve got teeth.
If you brainstorm without structure, you risk overlooking good ideas that maybe don’t sound so great at first glance. Here are a few of our tried and true methods for good structure:

Answer the Question, Why Are You Brainstorming?
Well, that should be simple. You’re brainstorming to solve a problem or achieve a goal. What is that problem? How do you achieve your goal? What does success look like? To have an effective brainstorm, you must answer these questions before you even walk in the room.

Prepare and Establish Some Goals
Document the goal, but don’t document constraints to getting to that goal. Invite people to the brainstorm that are outsiders. They won’t bring any preconceived notions or bias to the table. Send this goal to the team before the brainstorm meeting so they can think individually before the meeting. Decide which brainstorm technique works best for your problem or goal and prepare as needed. Three favorite techniques you’ll see at our office you can implement yourself include:

  1. Mind Mapping (a.k.a. Spider Web)
    Mind mapping is a visual tool for enhancing the brainstorming process. In essence, you’re drawing a picture of the relationships among and between ideas. Start by writing down your goal or challenge in the center of a large paper or white board. Then on your own, or when mapping with a team, think of related issues. You might create a second layer of all the services available to your team (social media, public relations, etc.). Layer by layer, add content to your map so that you can see how to solve a problem or visualize all possible tactics.
  2. Charrette
    Imagine a brainstorming session where 35 people from six different departments are all struggling to come up with viable ideas. The process is time consuming, boring and—all too often—unfruitful. The Charrette method breaks up the problem into smaller chunks, with small groups discussing each element of the problem for a designated period of time. Once each group has discussed one issue, their ideas are passed on to the next group who builds on them. By the end of the Charrette, each idea may have been discussed five or six times—and the ideas discussed have been refined.
  3. Collaborative Brainwriting (Perfect if time and schedules make it hard to meet!)
    Write your question or concern on a large piece of paper and post it in a public place. Ask team members to write or post their ideas, when they’re able, over the course of a week. Collate ideas on your own or with your group’s involvement.

Want to take these to your next meeting? Enter your email below and we’ll send a printable PDF straight to your inbox.

The Brainstorm Meeting
At Koch Comm, brainstorms are happening all of the time. In fact, we encourage it! We even gather together on a bi-monthly basis as a staff to tackle brainstorming for clients as a full company. This meeting, dubbed Creativity Forum, often leads to some of the best ideas since it allows for a lot of “outsiders” to work on a client they may have never worked on before. We can’t stress enough how important it is to get those outsiders in your brainstorms.

When considering where to have your next brainstorm, try to get out of the conference room and go somewhere different. If you have a park nearby, or even a coffee shop, take the team there. It’s amazing how a new space can lead to clearer minds and ideas, particularly without the distraction of a busy office. If you can’t get out of the office, bring some props to the meeting. Pads of paper, pens, markers, crayons, Play-Doh…. these pieces allow people to relax, doodle and really dive into that right side of their brain.

Don’t Leave without a Plan!
The worst thing you can do at the end of a brainstorm is leave with no plan. The greatest ideas can die quickly if no one is working on them. At Koch Comm, we document all the ideas from a brainstorm and take a few moments at the end of each brainstorm to talk about what’s next. You don’t have to have a fully-formed plan with detailed tasks, but you do need to know who is responsible for that plan. For example, you may have just brainstormed a great idea for a new video. Take a moment to talk about who will document that idea in more detail for the videographer, who will ensure the video shoot is scheduled and who will be the final approver. That could be one person or multiple people, but it’s worth stating for the entire group to know.

With these tools, your team is now prepared to have a successful brainstorm that will help solve your challenges and achieve your goals. If you’re looking for more tips and tricks that will take your marketing efforts to the next level, be sure to check out our other blogs.