This post is all about brainstorming and ways that any business can generate a lot of great new ideas quickly.
There are a lot of places in my business where brainstorming plays an important role. We brainstorm ad scripting ideas for clients, we brainstorm targeting possibilities for clients, we brainstorm ways that my business can get more clients, and we brainstorm ways to improve our company processes. Whatever the goal is, if a fresh, new idea could help you achieve that goal faster or more effectively, then a good brainstorming session might be in order.
Here are some basic rules you can follow when conducting a brainstorming session to help you get the most out of it.
*I want to give a lot of credit to Mark Fox and his book, DaVinci and the 40 Answers: A Playbook for Creativity and Fresh Ideas. He lays out his own rules for brainstorming in that book and, while I don’t follow all of his rules exactly, what I’m going to share with you in this video has mostly stemmed from that book.
Establish the Question
Are you trying to generate new marketing ideas? Are you trying to simplify a process? Are you trying to come up with ideas for a book title?
I ran a brainstorming session recently with the question ‘How can AdLeg scale?’ and this question was intentionally somewhat vague. There are a lot of different ways AdLeg can scale. We could get more customers, we could scale our existing customers, or we could tap into new industries. If the question was, ‘How can AdLeg get more customers?’, then the output would have been completely different and there’s nothing wrong with that.
That question would have made a great brainstorming session. Whatever the question is, it should be clear and it should be sent to the participants ahead of time.
The Group Should Include Insiders and Outsiders
This might mean people outside of your company, people outside of your department, or people who you don’t normally work with.
A brainstorming session with five people who you work with every day isn’t going to produce as many unique and crazy ideas as a brainstorming session that includes people who you don’t normally work with.
In Mark Fox’s book, he says the optimum size for a brainstorming group is eight to 12 people with one-third of them being outsiders.
This isn’t bad advice, but I’ve also had great brainstorming sessions with as few as three people, so don’t get too caught up on the number I mentioned.
Unique and crazy ideas should be encouraged. Steve Jobs said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually do.” George Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists on adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” The crazy ideas are the ones that are going to push the envelope, you might decide later that an idea isn’t useful or is too crazy, but during the brainstorming session, all of these ideas should come out.
Favor Quantity Over Quality
You want to leave your brainstorming session with a list of as many things as possible. Not only does this give you a bigger list of things to consider later on during the filtering stage, but it also helps to keep the session moving. If everyone is only trying to come up with the best ideas possible, things might stall out. If they have permission to throw out any idea, no matter how crazy or silly it may seem, then the session will continue its momentum and the great ideas will keep flowing. In order for this to work, everyone needs to follow the next rule.
Don’t Judge Any Ideas
You can’t laugh, wince, or roll your eyes at an idea that you don’t like. If people feel like their ideas are going to be judged, then they’ll stop participating, or at least they’ll stop throwing out the crazy ideas. And remember, we want lots of crazy ideas. No judgment is allowed.
Write Down All Ideas
One person should be writing down every idea that comes in. This list of ideas should be visible to all participants during the session. This shows, for one, that no idea is going to be disregarded and every idea truly is going to be written down. It also helps enable people to come up with new ideas based on things that are already on the list. Some of the best ideas are going to build or stem from other ideas. So, keeping all of the ideas visible is going to help with this.
Don’t Discuss Any Idea At Length
A brainstorming session isn’t the place to start putting plans behind an idea. Don’t talk about any idea for more than a minute unless you’re spinning up new ideas. Then, once an idea has been written down, it’s time to move on.
Wait At Least Three Days to Filter The List
When the session is over, wait at least three days to start filtering the list. You want things to simmer in your subconscious for a while. An idea that sounds crazy today might start to sound more realistic once your subconscious gets a hold of it after the brainstorming session is done.
You need to go through and start filtering your list and deciding which ideas are worth pursuing, but this shouldn’t be done right away.
Now it’s time to come to your list and start the trimming process. This can be done by yourself, or with a group of no more than three people. Cross out all the no-go’s on the list and rank whatever’s left to decide where to start.
If the things on your list are things that will take time, like if you were generating new marketing ideas for your business, then I recommend applying the RICE scoring model to your list.
Essentially, you’re grading each idea based on REACH, IMPACT, CONFIDENCE, and EFFORT.
This will illuminate the things you can do that will have the biggest bang for your efforts. Something that will have a large impact on a large number of people with minimal effort is going to be a great place for you to start for a quick easy win. Rice scoring will help you prioritize your list and plan your actions.
There you have it – rules for a successful, productive, and fun brainstorming session!
- Establish the question
- Include insiders and outsiders
- Encourage unique and crazy ideas
- Don’t judge any ideas
- Write down all ideas
- Don’t discuss any ideas at length
- Wait at least three days to review the list