Brainstorming is a vital part of any creative endeavor, and it is a critical part of our everyday day at Shift. Whiteboards, sticky notes, and online collaboration tools are our life. Our clients rarely come to us looking to do things like they always have. So, we have consciously developed a workspace where we have the freedom to creatively problem solve, look at things from all angles, and be brave enough to voice all of our ideas, no matter how strange.
Most of our projects start with an exerciseSHIFT as part of the discovery process. exerciseSHIFT is an interactive group session where we gather with our clients, their teams, and stakeholders, and we work with them to uncover information about their organization, brand, work, the people they serve, and more. We use a range of creative activities as frameworks for bringing forth ideas through words, images, actions, and more. The activities help everyone get beyond simple and surface answers to reveal underlying truths, priorities, and needs.
This important session then informs our own brainstorming as a team and individuals as we work together to write, design, and develop what our clients need to communicate better.
So here are some of the most common, most frustrating, or favorite things we hear while brainstorming.
We’re sharing content around the theme of ten all year, as we promised you in our Anniversary Blog post.
“This might be a bad idea, but…”
Don’t question yourself — there is no such thing as a bad idea. And remember, an out-of-the-box idea might spark other ideas! Also, saying, “This might be a bad idea, but…” can have the effect of undermining your credibility and idea. Every idea in a brainstorming session plants a seed.
“I’m not artistic. I won’t be able to contribute as much if we are drawing.”
Brainstorming and other discovery exercises often require participants to draw instead of writing or speaking their ideas. This is not because we need some stunning sticky notes to enjoy. It’s a challenge to communicate outside of our language. However, you choose to represent your idea visually – provided it is not a pictogram – allowing the group to interpret or articulate your drawing could unlock new discussions and ways of thinking.
Often, it’s what I haven’t heard. I make it a point to call on folks who have remained quiet during a brainstorming session. I never want to make someone uncomfortable by putting a spotlight on them, but it is crucial to hear from everyone in the room. Often, the folks that are quietly observing have some great contributions. And we want to ensure that no ideas are left unsaid and that no one voice speaks for the entire group.
hearing corporate jargon just for the sake of saying it. Phrases like “What’s the temperature on this?” and “Don’t boil the ocean” do convey the message, but sometimes they’re used just to sound extra corporate.
“Often during a brainstorming session, I hear comparisons being made to things the team has worked on in the past – things that worked and didn’t. I understand the idea here: you want to avoid repeating past mistakes or want to fully embrace a new direction for the next project. For the brainstorming session, though, I have to repeat what Ali said: don’t question yourself. It’s totally OK to draw on past work for inspiration and to refine the ideas and your strategy as you move forward after the session!”
“I hate group projects.”
In almost any brainstorming group, one person announces from the beginning that they don’t like brainstorming or sharing in groups. And it never fails that this person ends up participating a lot, usually adding a lot of great ideas and a needed perspective. And it’s great seeing them actually enjoy themselves a bit.
I have heard some great answers during icebreakers. No one likes them or will admit to liking them, but warm-up sessions are important to the process. It puts everyone from executives to front-line staff on the same level, and often, it lightens the mood and helps everyone get into the right frame of mind.
Hearing things like “Let’s table this for now” or “Let’s put this in the parking lot.” The former has a chance of coming back around, but it’s a guarantee any idea that goes into the parking lot never ever returns.
Any version of “Ah-ha!” is my favorite thing to hear during a brainstorming session. It can mean many different things, but a better understanding of a problem, a potential new solution, or even a total change in direction are all benefits of a brainstorming session.
“I’m not creative, so I won’t be able to add much to this.”
The thing is…everybody has the ability to contribute ideas, especially when there are no boundaries, no wrong ideas, and nothing at risk. A good brainstorming session is set up as an environment where bringing any idea or insight to the group is not only safe, but encouraged. It’s important to remember the goal of brainstorming is not about finding a solution. Brainstorming helps to identify challenges and then creates a platform for generating many ideas, quickly.
Does your team need a brainstorming session?
We’ll bring the post-its, sharpies, and fidget toys, you bring creative and open minds. We want to help you tackle your company’s latest problem, or develop your next big idea. Reach out today!