A Guide To The Ultimate Brainstorm

January 28th 2016

We've all been there - the business is going in a new direction and you need to collectively think of ideas to support this, or maybe you have a client demanding a fresh approach and so a time and date are set; it's brainstorming time. You and the team sit in a room armed with pens and paper but the ideas just aren't flowing...

It's awkwardly silent, nobody feels comfortable speaking out and the mounting pressure is making everyone feel stressed - in these situations it can be all too easy to give up and declare you just aren't that creative, but resist that temptation. In all my years facilitating all kinds of businesses' innovation sessions, and inspiring people to exhibit the behaviours of innovation, I've found a few very simple tweaks to the brainstorming process can elicit incredible results.

Give these easy tips a try:

  • Choose a physical space outside the typical workspace; a change of environment helps the mind migrate away from ‘same old, same old ideas’
  • Send out some pre-brainstorm information that allows the participants to know both the behavioral guidelines AND the why/purpose of the session
  • Ask participants a topic they would like to brainstorm as a way to give back, i.e. ten ideas of fun things to do that weekend
  • Room setup: comfortable, flexible, and several seating options
  • Even if you are only brainstorming one topic, split it up into several sub-topics or buckets to fill
  • Quantify the number of ideas for topics as your goal, i.e. let’s come up with 50 new product names or 75 new marketing ideas
  • Music and sunlight (if possible), especially at the beginning of the session, will stimulate their mood and their physical presence
  • A brief physical activity to get the participants’ blood flowing
  • Begin with a non-business topic to start the energy flow and demonstrate the rules. Example: 50 things to do at a children’s birthday party that would make it the best party ever
  • Let the participants know that volume and quantity trump quality at this stage of the innovation process—we’re not looking for the best idea, we’re just looking for the next idea.
  • Continue to throw in unrelated and fun topics 
  • Include palette-cleansing coaching suggestions like 'Ten Things that Would Get Us All Fired' or 'Ten Ideas that our customers would hate.' These will help stretch your brain into areas it would not typically go. 
  • Find several ways to collect ideas and give each participant several options, i.e. verbalize your idea, write down your idea on a notecard, white board your ideas, come up with ideas as a team, spend your time alone in quiet.

Everyone has the ability to think and behave innovatively, more often than not it's our mindset that stifles us - put these steps into practise and I guarantee you will be innovative fighting fit in no time at all - best of luck!

About John Sweeney

After 15 years, 2,000 speaking engagements and workshops and a brilliant business success story; entrepreneur, innovation behaviorist and author, John Sweeney has co-developed an every day innovation blueprint and practical guide in an exciting new book The Innovative Mindset: 5 Behaviors for Accelerating Breakthroughs -- available now from Amazon and wherever books and e-books are sold.

If you think your business could use an innovation kickstart in the form of a keynote or even a more in-depth workshop get in touch today!

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A Guide To The Ultimate Brainstorm
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