I have said time and time again that my absolute favorite aspect of working in marketing is the creative process. There is something about being involved in the evolution of ideas that excites me to no extent. During my time at Candeo Creative, in countless brainstorming sessions, I have seen what works well and what doesn’t work so well. Here are some of the key attributes I have learned in conducting the most effective brainstorming session.
It’s All About Perspectives
The key to creating a successful and innovative campaign or project lies within its team members. It is not necessarily about each team member’s aptitude for creativity, although creativity is more than welcomed. It is about working together to find a balance among many different perspectives and utilizing those individual insights for a higher purpose. No two people think the exact same; use those different mindsets to push the level of creativity. Although a variety of perspectives is vital, there is such a thing as too many perspectives. If you have too many people in your brainstorming session, you will not get anywhere. Keep the group small enough so that people will not fall into the background but large enough that a variety of ideas will be presented.
Strategize Your Time and Team
You can’t have every team member involved with every step; that sort of manpower is rather costly. Instead, strategize the steps of the process to your team members’ strong suits. I find the variety of perspectives are most valuable at the beginning of the creative process. Make sure team members are prepared to share all of their insights and tactics at the initial meeting, so those thoughts can be gathered and recorded. As the process evolves and becomes more specific to the project, assign certain team members to the steps where they will shine the most.
Don’t hesitate to bring up your experiences in the related field or industry. This is another reason why having diverse perspectives is important to the process. Don’t be afraid to go a little off topic in order to gain some understanding of a personal viewpoint. Not only does it help you get into a consumer perspective, but you never know what may spark that metaphysical light bulb above your head.
Devil’s Advocate vs. The Nitpicker
There is a difference between a devil’s advocate and a nitpicker. It is important to hear ideas through before before jumping the gun on why it won’t work. If you don’t have probable reason to veto an idea, don’t just say it for speaking points. This isn’t a competition, it’s a collaboration. It’s important, especially in a group setting, that if you disagree with another team member on an idea, you have valid reasoning to naysay a suggestion. There is also a proper way to play devil’s advocate, by being polite and gracious about your response. There is no reason to make someone feel bad about proposing an idea; it is vital that everyone feels comfortable in this kind of setting. Every team needs a devil’s advocate. There is nothing wrong with a strong voice in the team that can explain why a proposed idea may not work. It can be easy in the midst of a brainstorming session to lose sight of the objective, but the devil’s advocate usually does a good job of reinforcing that. Don’t feel bad for saying that something won’t work, just make sure you can explain why.
Equality Among Members
Although there needs to be someone in the brainstorming session who takes these ideas to the execution level, there is no need for a dictator. It is important that everyone feels like equals in a group brainstorming session. There will be times when a brainstorming session can go off topic. That is just the way it is, just don’t let it get too out of hand. There should be enough trust in the group as a whole to get back on pace. There is no need for someone to be in command in the midst of a brainstorming session, let the creative process take its natural course and let the free flow of information and ideas surge. Having someone try to control the brainstorming session may just end up blocking that flow. Know that there is a difference between a facilitator and a totalitarian.
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