4 Tips The Experts Use To Go Beyond Brainstorming


How many times have you been asked to attend a brainstorming session and let out a little sigh (or cringed)?  I used to... until I experienced more creative forms of ideation and started to practice these methods – with exciting results.
Whilst I think brainstorming, question storming, body storming and all forms of storming can be valid I prefer to understand the problem, where our client wants to go and the experience we want the people in the room to have before I begin to design the ideation experience. 
Steve Jobs once said “creativity is just connecting things” and that “creative people are able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize them”.  So if this is true a great ideation session needs to not only generate ideas but also enable people to connect with experiences and in our world connect ideas with the experiences of their customers. 
Here are four ideas you might like to try when planning your next ideation session!

1. Solve the right problem. 
Too obvious you might think?  Time and time again I have seen (and done myself) teams set out on an ideation journey only to get in the room and realise that the problem they want to get the collective brain power of the organisation working on is not valid.  Either the problem has not been researched, is being fixed by someone else or worse was based on the opinion of a group of people who thought it might be a good idea.  Before you invest in generating new ideas ensure you have done your research, you understand the needs of your customer, your company strategy, and you have evidence to support the problem.  Read our blog from earlier this year on how to do the research.

2. Embrace visual thinking and draw rather than write. 
Why?  Dave Gray from XPLANE (an expert in visual thinking and people-centred design) tells us that “if your ideas cannot be drawn, they cannot be done”. In my experience he is right.  To get your team on board and to overcome the overwhelming groan that you will inevitably get from the room when you introduce this idea start with some great exercises like Squiggle Birds or How To Make Toast.  Once you get people to draw an idea you will get more than a one dimensional idea, you are more likely to get a fully thought through concept.  For this use tools like storyboards, journey maps or look at sites like Hyper Island for inspiration.

3. Avoid group-think by asking people to create ideas as individuals before sharing. 
The group think phenomenon where by humans try to minimise conflict and look to reach a consensus can derail your ideation session.  In our work we ask people to quickly generate ideas on their own first before sharing with the group, enabling the group to benefit from the collective brainpower in the room.  This way everybody gets a voice, it encourages independent thinking and provides the forum for people to embrace the elephant in the room.  To do this just take any idea generation activity and ask people to do it on their own.

4. Make sure you get multiple perspectives.  
Try and get people with different perspectives in the room.  Back in my IBM days this was easy, we had departments full of recognised thought leaders and access to partners, this may not be so easy for some of you but I encourage you to apply some creative thinking.  Think about your personal network and their network, your partner ecosystem or maybe a supplier. I find most people love to be the expert in the room and to feel like they might be contributing to help others solve problems.  They do not have to be in the room for the entire session and they could simply present their perspective on an industry, just try to get some outside perspective. 

Get in touch if you are interested in how we can help you make your next ideation session more engaging, fruitful and yes, a little bit fun!