10 Tips for Greater Brainstorming Success

How to BrainstormIt’s a balance of creativity and structure to host the most effective brainstorming session for your business. Whether it’s for your company, clients, or new business, there are some tried and true tips on how to brainstorm that will leave you with solid, actionable ideas that will impress your client. Here at CM, we’ve crafted our process over the past few years and continually getting more creative in our brainstorming sessions. From adding food to creative thought-inducing knick-knacks, to more space to write ideas – we like to think of our team as a brainstorming machine.

In need of a little inspiration or some tips to getting your team to brainstorm successfully, here are 10 quick tips to help get you started.


Creative Space

You may not have the funds to recreate the Googleplex or dedicate an entire room to brainstorming. But, try to find some location within your office that gets employees away from their desks and away from typical work distractions (no emails, texting, phone calls, etc). You’ll want everyone to focus on the task at hand.

Have an area where your team can get a little loud, stand up, walk around or sit comfortably. Everyone likes to brainstorm differently, so try to find a space that is suitable for different types. You’ll also want to have the area equipped with the right supplies such as:

  • Markers/Sharpies
  • Post-It Notes (different sizes)
  • Easel
  • Whiteboard
  • Notebooks
  • Tape / Scissors
  • Brainteaser toys

Assign Teams

Mix up your brainstorming teams. Everyone brings a different perspective as well as different ideas, so add a bit of variety to your meetings. Invite someone from a different department each week, or have a guest for the meeting to help bring some fresh ideas to the table. You’ll be surprised how many people enjoy contributing to brainstorms but aren’t always invited.

Having a creative team dynamic can improve the level and the quality of ideas that you develop. Try to place people together who will feel comfortable communicating new and different ideas and accept other’s ideas. Having an open mind is crucial.

Ask the Right Questions

You can’t expect the team to come together and instantly have a brilliant idea. And if that does happen, you’re extremely lucky! But, come prepared with some basic questions to get the ideas flowing? Some thought-starters are:

  • What need are we trying to fill?
  • What content does our audience like?
  • What content do we like?
  • What’s your favorite content out there?
  • What is something out of the box?

You’ll want to guide your team through the brainstorming session, not lead them. Be careful to not ask leading questions, you’ll want them to come to their own conclusions.

Have a Facilitator

This role is crucial. Whether you assign yourself the title, or get someone else to do it – you’ll want someone to lead the brainstorm. This person will be responsible for keeping everyone on track and on time. Brainstorms are great because new ideas come up and your team can go off on a tangent. A facilitator will have to recognize that tangents are important but you still have a goal to reach and can reel everyone back in.

This person will ask the questions, push for more details and try to elevate good ideas to great ideas. It’s a tough task, so make sure you find someone who has experience with brainstorming sessions to help make it a success.


Have an Agenda, Goals & Rules

But I thought brainstorming was supposed to be fun and carefree? Well, it is – but in a structured way. You still have a goal to accomplish with your brainstorming session, so having a clear agenda and goals will help ensure you get everything done that you need to.  And by rules, we mean some general rules of being a person. Such as:

  • No idea is dumb or stupid (and if it is, don’t say it is)
  • Let everyone speak
  • Try not to interrupt (grab a Post-it® when a great idea pops into your head)
  • Attempt to stay focused
  • Come prepared with a little bit of topic insight

Set a time limit

You’ll want to make sure you keep a certain time frame for the brainstorm. No, you can’t really put a time limit on great ideas, so be flexible. If you’re team is on a roll and they’re cool with staying another 30 minutes to fine-tune your perfect idea, roll with it. But, don’t waste time. Time is precious in a brainstorming session, so staying on track and keeping to the agenda will help.

Make it Visual

Saying ideas out loud is great, but actually showing them is even better. It allows the team to visualize the entire picture and make it even better. Whether you can have a whiteboard wall or not, get some big pieces of paper, get some Post-it® notes and put it all up on a wall where people can write, share, remove, re-arrange and finalize your idea.


Get Inspired

You’ll need a little bit of inspiration to get creative. Whether you have food available to break the ice and get everyone comfortable, beverages for everyone to enjoy or some toys, magazines, photos, past campaigns, you’ll want a variety of items to help everyone find their inner Don Draper. Mix and match what you have at your brainstorms, it’ll keep your team guessing and engaged.

Here at CM, we have a few different tinker toys to play with as well as different stress balls and kid-like tinker toys to keep the meetings fun.

No Limits

Alright, this may seem counterintuitive to setting rules and having an agenda. But, what I mean is: never say “no” to an idea. Whether your team has the capability to build it or not, dream big! Having big ideas can help bring your content to the next level, even if your skills and personnel isn’t able to achieve it right now, doesn’t mean you can’t in the future. Don’t set limitations on ideas, it’s always better to have to scale something down rather than try to make a small idea bigger.  Here’s some inspiration from Pixar and their creative process.

Keep it Fresh

Don’t be stagnant! Don’t keep your process the same every week or even every year. Have a session outside of the office, meet early, meet late, try out a different day of the week, go off-site for a meeting, have a meeting at a bar, eat dinner together! Keep the team excited about brainstorms, they’ll be more inclined to join and want to bring more creative ideas to the table.

How does your team brainstorm, did we leave any tips out? Share in the comments below.