Every team uses brainstorming to solve problems, but not many of them have rules that help make them more productive. Learn about the seven rules you can use with any team to make those brainstorms even more effective for your team.
- [Instructor] We've talked about, as a creative leader, the fact that you need to give your team space, to let their process come to life, to let their ideation really shine. And now the place where that happens most often is whenever you run a brainstorm. And the reality is is that for pretty much every team, the work is the truth. It's where the rubber meets the road. It's where all the work, all this investment, all this leadership comes to life. And that that's the place where you really want to make sure that you're excelling. So how do you get better ideas, and how do you get better work out of your team? Because you can invest in their creative process, you can invest in learning a lot of those sort of things.
But it's really doing a brainstorm. That's the place where the rubber first meets the road, and so you need to run better brainstorms. Well, how do you do that? How do you actually bring this together and not just let it be this kind of free-for-all where we hope that something happens? And the thing that I've learned is that there are seven basic rules that I'll use for going into a brainstorm. Seven things that I want people to think about, to be aware of, so that we're sure that this time is really the most productive. This time really gets you in there, and it gets something really strong out of this process.
Now these rules, they're going to work for in-house teams that are going to work for agency teams, as well, but the one caveat. The one extra rule that I would add to this is to look at how many people are you actually having in a brainstorm? And in my experience, don't have a group that's working on this be larger than we'll say six to eight people. Now there may be a time you have 20, 30 people maybe more than that. Well, if that's the case, then what I want to do is I actually want to go through and break that group down. I want to break it into these smaller subdivisions of six to eight people so that I have a smaller, more manageable number.
And we'll talk about why that's important a little bit more here in a minute. So the first rule that I want to go through, and this is the biggest one, and especially if you're working with people from outside of the creative team. If you're bringing clients and things like that in, is that I want to defer judgment. Because this is the moment of a brainstorm. This is the moment whenever anything is possible. So at this point, there aren't any bad ideas. I mean, look. There's going to be plenty of time later to judge these ideas, to bring them back down to earth, but what I want to do is I want to just simply let them be out there.
Great ideas are really fragile, and that they can very quickly be shattered and brought down to earth with reality and a whole bunch of other things. So just enjoy the moment. Let them have the air, let them have the space for just a little bit, and make sure that people aren't judging them too quickly. Now the next part of that, which really dovetails into this is the fact that I also really want to make sure that I'm encouraging wild ideas. And the reason why I say this is because I often think that somewhere, one of my competitors, there is somebody who has my job title, who's running a team similar to mine, who's probably running a similar brainstorm.
Now if both of those teams are really just taking the obvious, the ordinary, the expected solutions to a problem, well, we're not going to find anything innovative. We're not going to find anything great. We're not going to find anything that terribly interesting. So what I want to do is I want to encourage these wild ideas. I really want to go for something that's big and innovative, and maybe a little bit crazy, because that's really the potential that this brainstorm is. It's the ability to really go out and do something genuinely different. Not safe, not obvious, but to really kind of take advantage of this opportunity and think outside of the box.
So make sure that you're really pushing people to do that, and they aren't just taking the simple and safe answers. Now the next part of this, and part of the reason why I said to limit the size in the number of people that are in this brainstorm, is that you want to make sure that whenever you're doing a brainstorm that you're actually building on the ideas of other people. Because what happens so many times is that whenever people go through and you're all sitting around listening to these ideas, what people are actually doing is they're just simply waiting for the next person to finish, so then they can jump in with their idea.
The one that they think is clearly better, the one that they think is the one that everybody really needs to hear. Well, the problem with that is that, here again, we're bringing people together so that collectively we can work on things. So I want to make sure that people are building on the ideas of others, that it's an and, not a but. Because there have been so many times whenever somebody, quite frankly, may have said it may have been the worst idea that you ever heard of. But one somebody else, somebody else in that group, they were listening. And that they were able to take that, put a different spin on it, see the spark of inspiration that was in there, build on it, and make something that was genuinely really interesting and really good out of that.
The fourth rule. Sounds simple, but stay on topic. Because whenever you're brainstorming, you're exploring. You're going out. You're looking for new things and you're looking for new topics. Well, what do I want to do is I want to make sure that we're actually solving the problem that we're supposed to be solving. And it's not that we get to the end, and we've got a lot of really great ideas. None of them just happen to solve the problem that we actually were supposed to be brainstorming against. So be disciplined and think and make sure that the output that you're doing is really going against the problem that you're supposed to solve. Here again, to try to limit the size of this team and to make sure that you're building on other people's conversations is to make sure that you're having one conversation at a time.
I can guarantee you, of these seven rules, this will be the single most broken one. This is going to be the one that you're going to have to police the most often. Because it's just these side conversations happen. People start to get very excited, and it's just these sort of things branch off and happen. Well you're going to need to go around and you need to police this. And if you see it happening, there's a group of people and there are multiple conversations going on, you need to go over and you need to stop them. And what you need to do is to say if there are two or three different conversations that are going on, go through one at a time.
Let each one of them finish, so we capture that idea. We don't lose what it is that we're talking about. What I want to then do is to restart this conversation, so that it's just one conversation. Because this is the big problem is I can't build on an idea that I didn't hear. The sixth rule is to be visual. Now this doesn't mean that you have to be Picasso or Michelangelo or do some sort of big, crazy drawing. But what you want to do is you want to make sure that you can do some quick sketches. Something to help make things more visual, something to make things more understandable for other people.
Now there's a trap here that, for some people, they actually will start to run to doing execution. They'll start to design the website or the app or the add or whatever it is. And so if you see that happening, here again is another trick that I'll share. Because what I'll actually do is I'll usually go out and I'll find the biggest, like fattest tip magic marker that I can. And then I'm going to give these people the smallest piece of paper. Maybe it's just like a sticky note, maybe it's a four by six card. But I'm going to take advantage of just the simple fact that a really fat magic marker with a really small piece of paper is going to prevent me from getting into any detail at all, that it's going to be nothing more than simple sketches and simple gestures and that's what I want.
And then once the team gets better with that and they learn it, then we can go back to just regular-sized pen and paper. And the last part of this, we talked about how creativity is about divergent and convergent thinking. This is the divergent part. I want to go for quantity. I want to be able to try and get as many ideas as I can out there. And the one that you're really going to watch out for is that with a lot of creatives, the thing that you're going to see is you've presented them with a problem. There's a tension that comes with that. The first idea that they come up with, the first thing that they think that really solves that problem, they're going to fall in love with it.
The tension goes away. They feel better. They feel like they have a solution. Well, the challenge here is to not let them be really just okay. Not let them settle for just that one idea that I want them to go through. I want them to think about four, five, six, eight, 10 of these big ideas. And not just get to the first one, be happy with it, and then just kind of start to push these little bits of information around, as opposed to just genuinely saying okay, look. We've got one. Let's start a totally different line of thinking and go down that route. So really, just look for quantity and try to make sure you're doing multiple really big ideas.
And so these are just rules. These are the things that you can do to run a better brainstorm. These are the places that you can come in, set some guidelines, whether it's with your team. Whether you're bringing in people from the outside, but it gives structure to the brainstorm. It gives expectation. And there are just some guide rules that can make a massive, massive difference between a brainstorm being a complete free for all and something that really is going to yield a lot of really good, really usable ideas for you and your team.
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- Leadership obstacles
- The creative process
- Leading creativity using the 10/80/10 rule
- Becoming a better leader
- Trust, commitment, and knowledge
- Defining your team's process
- Speaking business
- Creating a focused and empowered team
- Coaching leadership and creativity
- Embracing failure