Kickstart Your Next Brainstorming Session

Some clients come to us with a clear vision of what they want their final project to look like; some even bring in sketches, reference images or brainstorming notes. But sometimes clients like to leave the whole creative process to our design team, which is perfectly fine as well. Either way the client and/or our design team (and sometimes both of us together) should have a brainstorming session to get some ideas flowing about what direction the design should go in. Here are a few things to keep in mind when brainstorming for your next project (actually…keep these tips in mind for any type of brainstorming session!)

  1. Schedule a Brainstorming Session –  Everyone’s schedules are crammed tight with things to do these days so you want to make sure you schedule a brainstorming session with those who will be part of the planning process. Make sure you present the task-at-hand so they have time to prepare their thoughts and opinions beforehand, thus saving time during the actual brainstorming session.
  2. Brainstorm on an Individual Level – Be sure to ask everyone involved to spend some time brainstorming on their own prior to the meeting.  When brainstorming individually, you are able to focus more and better develop your own ideas instead of trying to latch on to others. Also, if you have your ideas written down before you walk into the meeting you might be more likely to be able to get in your “two cents” since you’ve already thoroughly thought about and written down your contributions.
  3. Run the Brainstorming Session – Now that everyone has had time to get there own thoughts down, it’s time to come together for the scheduled brainstorming session. There are a few things that you might want to do when running a brainstorming meeting to keep it orderly and focused:
  • Assign a Moderator – This might not be necessary in small groups, but it is always good to have someone moving the meeting along and making sure that everyone has a chance to share their ideas. Be sure the person that you assign this task is mildly assertive and is able to gently bring the others back to the core purpose of the meeting in case some happen to go off on “bunny trails” that have nothing to do with solving the task-at-hand.
  • Assign a Recorder – It’s important that you have proper notes of what was discussed at this meeting so you can easily recall your solutions when necessary. For this, I suggest asking a detail oriented, responsible individual to take notes on the brainstorming session, specifically noting the ideas that everyone agrees upon and making note of those ideas that might not work out for the current project. At the end of the meeting, it might be a good idea to make copies of these notes and distribute to those involved in the project.
  • Ensure Everyone Gets a Chance to Share Their Ideas – Inevitably, there is going to be at least one person in the group that does all the talking and at least one person in the group that sits there quietly…even if they have their own ideas they’re dying to share. It’s the nature of differing personalities, neither one is better than the other; they’re just different. So, to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance, have the moderator go around the room asking each person to share their ideas. Encourage interaction between peers about each idea, but make sure the moderator has a good grasp of the time so that they can reel everyone back in when it’s time to hear from someone else.
  • Don’t Let The Session Go Stale – Some brainstorming sessions will be more successful than others; you might have a flow of ideas that are non-stop, crazy-good concepts that leave you feeling pumped up for your project to begin. But sometimes you all might just get stuck in a rut and if that happens, you can’t let it discourage you. My advice would be to change up your focus. Encourage all involved in the meeting to get up and walk around – maybe even take a walk to a close-by park or playground and get some fresh air. You may also want to take a break and watch the latest witty viral video – get people laughing! Or maybe talk about some current events (try to focus on the positive though, this is not the time to hop up on your political soap box!). Another “technique” that I’ve often seen is where companies keep a box of toys such as Legos or Toobers & Zots in their conference room. It’s been said that since the majority of the nerves in our hands are directly connected to our brain, keeping your hands busy will help stimulate your brain cells…not to mention you can create some pretty nifty things with a box of Legos 😉
  • No Idea is a Bad Idea – A few years ago I read a book called “The Imagineering Way” written by the Disney Imagineers and in it was a piece of advice that is so simple and sensible, but many people don’t follow it. In a nutshell, they wrote about how when they enter a brainstorming session, one of the rules is that “No idea is a bad idea”. Now I’m sure you can think of a time or two when your coworker or friend threw out an idea that was so far-fetched that you thought to yourself “…that was just stupid”. However, when you’re brainstorming, all the ideas you throw out are simply stepping stones that get you to the proper solution, so even if someone gives an idea that you think is ridiculous, it just might spark an idea that makes sense. So please, do not criticize each other for any idea that is given, instead encourage the flow of ideas, no matter what they are and you will have a much more successful brainstorming session.

Good Luck and Happy Brainstorming!