TCG Roadmap: Starting Your Trip Off On The Right Foot

Building a Better Brainstorm

Team meetings aren’t just beneficial for building camaraderie and keeping those in your creative department personally inspired; they also help in-house teams come up with the next big idea. In fact, nine out of 10 survey respondents said brainstorming sessions are effective for generating quality concepts. But brainstorming is more of an art than a science. As most creatives can attest, not all brainstorming sessions lead to an influx of ideas; sometimes you’re lucky to get a mere trickle. Sam Harrison, creativity coach and author of Zing! Five Steps and 101 Tips for Creativity on Command and IdeaSpotting: How To Find Your Next Great Idea, provided the following suggestions for brainstorming sessions that yield a generous flow of creative thought:

Start on the right foot

“It’s helpful to get people’s minds off of what they were just doing at their desks or computers by engaging in something lighthearted, such as a trivia game or an improv exercise. I sometimes kick things off with an activity called ‘Last-Letter Sentences,’ where one person says a sentence, and then the next person starts the next sentence with the last letter of the last word. Other times, I’ll distribute Post-it notes and have participants spend a few minutes silently filling their pad with ideas, words and sketches related to the topic. We then post these on a wall and loosely organize them, but we don’t edit or judge. The wall of Post-its simply serves as a platform for launching additional ideas. This heads us toward vigorous brainstorming.”

Create the right environment

“It needs to be one where people are free to express ideas without fear of judgment, where everybody jams and connects ideas. But the session also needs to focus on a particular objective or problem to be solved. These rules enhance, not restrict, freedom.”

Embrace the impromptu meeting

“Brainstorming needs to be part of your daily work life. It’s great to get out of the office now and then, but teams shouldn’t have to depend on escapes for their brainstorming. It’s ideal if the team can have a dedicated room filled with treats, brainstorming guidelines, fidget toys, easel pads and other creative paraphernalia. But if that’s not possible, push for a designated grouping of furniture in a corner or even a basic worktable that everybody can gather around. Make brainstorming more accessible and you’ll have more brainstorms.”

Go for the numbers

“One of the biggest and most frequent problems I see is teams fixated on coming up with one big idea rather than lots of ideas. This is a formula for failure. Brainstorming is about quantity, not quality. If participants understand there’ll be a follow-up session to edit ideas, they’ll be more likely to express pie-in-the-sky ideas and less likely to shoot down anything that sounds the least bit wild and dangerous.”

TCG in-house survey respondents weighed in with their favorite brainstorming techniques. Following are some of their suggestions:

  • “I think any brainstorming session must have a good director to make sure everyone feels comfortable providing their ideas, as well as to ensure everyone is contributing.”
  • “Don’t short-circuit any idea. Let the energy flow without judgment.”
  • “Invite a diverse group of people to participate, including non-designers.”
  • “Get all participants to think outside their sphere of influence. While it is a great asset to have a sales point of view represented, it’s beneficial to get that same person to wear a different hat and think more globally.”
  • “Identify one person to record and capture all of the ideas.”
  • “Believe that you’ll come up with something that’s worth the time you spend brainstorming.”
  • “Do not judge any idea until you have a HUGE pile of them.”
  • “Get people to think in terms of possibilities, not realities.”
  • “Obtain as much information about the project as possible, from all different sources. The more you know, the more angles you can take to a creative level.”
  • “Be silly and serious. The best ideas are always the ones that are unexpected; if they were expected, people would not
  • have to brainstorm.”
  • “The key is having people come to the brainstorming meeting with ideas and research. When people attend a brainstorming meeting with no prior thought, it can take longer to pull out great ideas.”
  • “Don’t be an idea assassin; be open to all ideas.”
  • “Keep an open mind, and keep things lighthearted.”

TCG Roadmap is sponsored by The Creative Group.

One thought on “TCG Roadmap: Starting Your Trip Off On The Right Foot

  1. zh

    Awesome article. Thank you!

    I’d like to recommend the Table Group’s (Patrick Lencioni) series on team building and meetings. They’re in a great storytelling format, easy to absorb when you’re on the run and resonate with many, particularly multi-disciplinary teams.

    The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
    Getting Naked, etc