The idea of brainstorming as a group is one that’s been around since societies were first formed. It’s the whole idea behind town and city hall meetings that are open to the public — to bring the group together and find a plan of action that works best for everyone. When it comes to marketing meetings, brainstorming is really the best way to generate the most quality ideas for growing your brand.
Here’s a few tips to make your next marketing meeting more productive:
1. Let people come in prepared.
A good rule of thumb is to send out an email to everyone who’ll attend at least two days or more in advance. This isn’t just for the butt-kissers in the group to get prepared. Those on the team who’re less creative will be afforded the time they need to pontificate on the meeting’s agenda, without the pressure to perform on the spot as meetings so often foster.
2. First 20 minutes should be spent “brainwriting.”
In his book, Brainstorming and Beyond, Chauncey Wilson lays out the concept of brainwriting in the second chapter. The concept is as simple as it is genius. Basically, the first twenty minutes of a group brainstorming session should be spent with everyone individually “brainwriting” their ideas on a piece of paper, without any input from anyone else.
The beauty is in the details with this method. Everyone comes together afterwards with way more ideas than could have been had in a single twenty minute group session (ie., five employees brainwriting for twenty minutes equals one-hundred minutes of collective brainstorming). Then, the group decides on which ideas are most worth exploring, pros and cons, likes and dislikes, etc.
The rest of the meeting is spent refining great ideas rather than everyone putting their hands up, interrupting, and contradicting ideas as they’re made, as so often happens when a group comes together and tries to “come up with” ideas at the start of a meeting.
3. No laptops.
Try to think of brainstorming as it was originally intended — ie., generating ideas using the brain. If someone is using a laptop for ideas — or worse, to check their email, etc., during the brainstorming session — the entire point of the meeting becomes mute.
4. No off-topic discussions!
This one should be a given. It’s all up to having an official discussion leader ensuring crowd control. All it takes is one person to mention last night’s game, or an episode of Orange is the New Black, and brainless chaos is sure to ensue.
4. Nix bad ideas immediately.
This doesn’t mean that a manager has ultimate veto power over what they feel are bad ideas, and that everyone simply has to agree. Everyone on the team should be encouraged to nix bad ideas, just as much as they should embrace good or highly plausible ones.
If someone doesn’t like the idea, and another employee feels the same way, they should say so. If the group collectively hates something — or at least the majority does — throw it in the trash and don’t waste time pandering to something silly nobody has any passion for.
5. Nix those bad ideas politely.
Bad ideas are essentially as good as the great ones, if you nix them in time. It’s through the bad ones that the true gems are unearthed. When someone has a bad idea, tell them “Thanks, at least we know what isn’t going to work for us on this campaign” and don’t make them feel like a dumb jerk about it. It’s likely their next idea will be terrible otherwise, and other members of the group will surely begin to feel uptight about their own suggestions.
6. Don’t get uptight about silent moments in the brainstorming session.
“Silence is golden.” Not everyone comes up with the best ideas when there’s tons of chatter and confusion going on. Some of the best minds in the room are doing their best thinking when quiet ensues and it appears that everyone else has went brain dead.
Even better, introverts — those magical little idea machines — will finally share their golden ideas when the chatty cats in the room finally shut up for a bit! Don’t let silence linger for minutes at a time, but don’t be the type standing at the front of the room going “Come on guys, we have to come up with something” every time a brief silence takes place.
7. Kill the official meeting and take your brainstorming sessions online.
If your marketing brainstorming sessions are going nowhere, don’t keep pushing it just because you need ideas and there’s no other way to bring everyone’s thoughts together other than an in-person meeting. There are tons of free collaboration tools that allow for popular brainstorming techniques to unfold at everyone’s creative convenience, using the cloud.
Collaborate with the team using tools like Google Docs, Calendar, Hangouts, Form, Sheets, and Slides using this handy Google tutorial. Use MindMeister to create mind maps, and let everyone edit providing their own insights. Lucidchart is really cool for making elaborate flowcharts and diagrams.
There are tons more — don’t be afraid to take things to the cloud for a change of pace!
Like, share, profit!
Brainstorming is essential to marketing success. Use these tips and share them with your staff and friends as you wish.
Here’s to coming up with great ideas and profiting hard in the coming months!
Main Image Credit: Kevin Dooley/Flickr