October 16, 2017

How To Brainstorm Like A Pro

Brainstorming: it’s a term that fills some of us with creative energy, and others with a sinking dread only paralleled by hearing the phrase ‘group assignment’ at university. But when you’re looking to develop ideas for your brand’s next video, a team brainstorming session can the innovative, time-saving push you need to get there.

So how can you set up a brainstorming session for your team’s best chance of success? Check out our 6 quick tips!

1) choose the time of day wisely

The best time of day for brainstorming will depend on what kind of video ideas you’re after: innovative and lateral ideas, or logical and easy-to-grasp concepts.

Creative ideas come when you’re least used to it according to a Michigan State University/Albion College study, who found that most of their subjects’ best creative ideas came at 6pm when tired, while night owls had better ideas in the mornings. This correlates with the idea that a fresh, clear-minded brain tends toward the most logical, consistent conclusions—you want a focussed mind for logical work, and a slightly tired mind for creative, lateral ideas.

Avoid making important decisions when the team is likely to be tired or hungry. Research shows that as we near breaks we err toward making the most immediately convenient decisions. This means our pre-lunch-break selves often take the easy way out (whether that ends up being good or bad in the long run) to appease our tired and hungry bodies.

And in terms of getting your team to show up to the meeting at all, studies show Tuesday early afternoons are the time most people are free. This, of course, all depends on the culture and schedule of your specific team. The main idea is to avoid peak times for work piling up, phone calls, and email responding.

2) make the room a welcoming place

Similar but distinct to the philosophy of feng shui, environmental psychology is the study of how to design locations to best meet the needs and activities of the occupants. For a brainstorming session it’s important to design the room foremost to facilitate open discussion amongst the whole group.

Which way are the chairs facing: to each other, to computers/desks, or to a central point of interest? Are there chairs at all? Are there desks in between people? How much light is there in the room? Is it a natural or artificial light source? Does the meeting room smell like coffee, air freshener, or new computer smell? All of these seemingly small choices affect the comfort, energy and focus of your team while you’re developing video ideas.

3) have a game plan

It’s easy to get off-topic in a brainstorming session. One minute you’re talking about ideas for your brand’s next explainer video, the next you’re in a heated debate with half the room as to whether or not Firefly was overrated. Statistically most meetings are considered unproductive, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Start by listing clear expectations, and preparing for how you’re going to relay these expectations to the team at the start of the meeting. Make sure the things that need to be decided on are definitely discussed. Shorter meetings make it easier to keep focus and to retain information, so try to keep your scope narrowed to the topic at hand. With that in mind, be prepared to break out of the scope… just a bit. After all, the really original ideas come from lateral thinking and allowing a flow-on of ideas.

4) facilitate the flow of ideas, both good and mediocre

The idea here is to keep the flow of ideas going, not analysing them until after the innovative flow winds up. In the writing world it’s well known that you have to get the bad, boring, cliché ideas out on paper before the really inventive ideas start to flow. Similarly in brainstorming meetings sometimes the team can get locked up, afraid to speak out and only wanting to contribute ‘good’ ideas. Get the ball rolling by submitting ideas with a hard time limit: 2 minutes for 30 keywords, for example. If you can’t think of any ideas, write about not having any ideas. Anything to get the creative juices flowing.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable about leading a team to brainstorm video ideas, research some brainstorming techniques beforehand. Mind maps, word association, cubing, visual motifs: think about what methods are likely to work best with your team and your end goal and, heck, have fun with it.

5) prepare several recording methods & record everything

Oh, the sieve of memory. The last thing you want is to come up with a bunch of incredible ideas for your brand video concept, only to leave the brainstorming session and have your ideas disappear into the ether of your mind. The second-last thing you want is to interrupt the flow of ideas with meticulous transcribing every few seconds.

Set up recording methods—preferably more than one—so your brainstorming ideas are captured on the spot and can be analysed and categorised later on. Sound or video recording is ideal, especially to capture the energy of the room in relation to each idea (make sure your team is aware you’re recording, of course). Have a whiteboard or paper and pen ready for visual ideas. Make sure the pens actually work. Take pictures of whiteboard notes before erasing. If you’re planning on doing mind maps or other association activities, make sure your whiteboard is large enough to accommodate it so everyone in the room can see.

It sounds obvious, but make the brainstorming session as easy as possible for yourself by preparing the room and the process for every eventuality beforehand.

6) before you finish up

Recap any team CTAs. Make a summary list of the most valuable points made, and actions to be taken and by when. While you don’t want to break the flow of brainstorming in the heat of the moment, do make sure you take the time to wrap up your results at the end of the session. Summarise the best points, thank your team, and revel in the awesomeness of setting up a brainstorming session that actually worked.

And if the session didn’t result in the ideas you wanted? Don’t beat yourself up. Try again another time, with different techniques. Despite any romantic ideas of creativity coming out of the blue, innovation is an elusive beast that only gets easier to tame with practice and persistence.

Written by
Maree Railton

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