Brainstorming the Big Idea

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  • May 31, 2012
  • INK Team

This post comes from INK alumna Jennifer Sisk.

We’ve all been there – your client calls and tells you they need “the next big idea.” But, you’ve got nothing. So, you call in your trusty colleagues for a brainstorm. And you all stare at each other, wondering who is going to come up with this elusive “big idea.”

To make sure your brainstorm doesn’t waste time and gets you to that big idea, here are 5 tips and tricks you can use.

1: There is never a bad idea in a brainstorm

You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating. There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm. Nothing kills the creative juices faster than someone who shoots down ideas. Even if it’s just a nugget of an idea or it’s totally off base, it may spark something for someone else. Or, it could be used at another time. Implement a “yes, and…” only rule where participants can only respond to another idea by saying, “yes, and…” instead of responding negatively.

2: Assign homework

Give attendees a question to mull over or a short statistic to research before the brainstorm. Nothing too intense – we’re all busy, after all – but something to get them in the mindset before entering the room. The question can be simple, such as “What is your favorite memory from when you were 16?” or thought-provoking like, “What’s the single biggest impact cloud technology has had on our industry?” Then, get started by asking everyone about their thoughts and answers and use that to segue into a brainstorm.

3: Mix it up

If you’re asking people to think in ways they’ve never thought before, why would you put them in the same old conference room they’ve sat in hundreds of times? Take the brainstorm outside or even somewhere offsite (if you can still speak freely, of course) to help enhance those creative juices.

Or, if you have to use that old conference room, place visuals around the room that relate to the topic. It could be photos of top executives that you’re trying to reach, screen shots of websites you want to emulate or junk food that the teen population eats – anything to help get brainstormers out of a meeting mindset and into a more creative space.

4: Don’t be exclusive

Instead of limiting your invite list to the same people you’ve brainstormed with before, think about who might have a different perspective that could be beneficial. Call in the IT guy, the receptionist or even a trusted vendor to help bring new thinking and fresh perspective. You never know what people might bring to the table.

5: Find your “hot start”

For many people, the notion of tossing out the initial idea is terrifying. Find a way to break the ice and make everyone feel comfortable, whether it’s using the homework question, playing a quick trivia game or even doing something silly. I once had a professor tell me that the best brainstorm he had during his time at Disney was one that started with a silly string fight. Get people comfortable, and maybe even laughing, and the ideas will start flowing.

Next time you’re in need of the “big idea,” pull out these tips and you’ll be there in no time.