When we brainstorm ideas as marketers, we are looking to find a nugget of an idea that can grow. With most meetings we attend, the expectation is that someone will have the answers to the questions. In brainstorming meetings, that pressure is off. Brainstorms by nature mean we do not have the answers yet. If done correctly, it affords you the opportunity to come up with that idea that creates change.
A Little History on Brainstorming
Did you know there is a father of brainstorming? His name is Alex Faickney Osborn. He was the “O” in the New York ad agency BBDO. Osborn invented the idea in 1938 and brainstorming became popularized in his book, “Applied Imagination,” published in 1953. Osborn described brainstorming as a process by which a group attempts to find a solution for a specific problem by gathering all the ideas spontaneously identified by its members. He had 4 general rules for the process: withhold criticism of ideas, go for large quantities of ideas, build on each other’s ideas, and encourage wild and exaggerated ideas.
It makes sense and sounds very familiar, right?
But do you and your teams always follow these rules?
The DEFY Tenets of Brainstorming
As we all have experienced, there are behaviors that can help fuel ideas. And there are behaviors that can stifle them. Here are some of the tenets we try to follow at DEFY when we brainstorm internally and with our client partners to help us get to great solutions. We have taken the brainstorming advice of Mr. Osborn (mostly unknowingly!) and built upon it.
- Have a clear objective. Everyone needs to have a very clear understanding of the challenge they are there to solve.
- Give homework before the meeting. Have meeting participants come to the brainstorm with an understanding of the marketing challenge (think competitive landscape, white papers written on the topic, a general understanding of the audience need)
- Make sure the brainstorm team is diversified. All disciplines should be represented. It guarantees a range of thinking and even more importantly, all team members will feel on board and participate early. Nobody wants to be the bucket of cold water later.
- Welcome all ideas and get them out fast. Rapid ideation is important and so is documenting what is said in live time. Ideas (even “bad” ones) can beget other ideas.
- Don’t critique ideas right away. No judgement is allowed while ideas are being offered. Don’t stifle confidence. Editing and refining the ideas should come after the initial brainstorming (it can happen in the same meeting—just make sure there are 2 parts to the meeting). In brainstorming, sheer quantity of ideas is more important than quality.
- Let it be fun. Try not to look at any of it as a waste of time. A good brainstorm can shake the stale feeling of our daily routines and exercise creative muscles that improve moral and comradery. That’s a good recipe for better productivity!
- Encourage everyone to voice their ideas. Introverts are sometimes the best listeners. Make them tell you what they are hearing and thinking. This will likely bring a fresh perspective.
- Make someone the moderator of the brainstorm. This person must be comfortable making sure people don’t talk over each other, that there are not participants consistently dominating the conversation, and the brainstorm keeps moving forward, fill in awkward silence if it happens, and politely remind people that critiquing ideas will happen later.
Give us a call at 215-990-5252 if you have a challenge that you would like DEFY to brainstorm for or with you!