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How to Fix Your Next Brainstorm Session

Forcing creativity in the moment sounds good, but it isn't always productive. Thus, here are 12 ideas to make your next brainstorm session less painful.

How to Fix Your Next Brainstorm Session

When is the last time you walked into a team meeting, stood at the whiteboard and asked for your team to brainstorm a solution to a business problem—and got blank stares? Forcing creativity in the moment might sounds like a good idea, but it doesn’t always lead to productive conversations (especially if your team has already spent an hour in the conference room).

Here are 12 ideas for making your next brainstorm session less painful from some of our council members:

Get the Right People

John RoodOftentimes finding a solution is easy once the problem has been identified precisely. Make sure you get a 360 degree view of an issue by inviting on-the-ground operations, customer service, and sales staff into management meetings. Even better, ask your customers to participate.
– John Rood, The Next Step Test Preparation

Start Smiling

Mark KrassnerAll of our meetings start with a focus on personal and professional wins. I’ve seen my team walk into a meeting looking stressed, had everyone share positive experiences and watched people do a complete turnaround. It’s increased the level of enthusiasm and collaboration during brainstorm sessions significantly.
– Mark KrassnerKnee Walker Central

Use Post-It Notes

Aaron SchwartzThe key to a successful brainstorm is getting people to feel comfortable sharing ideas, even half-baked ones. In order to do this, start with post-it notes and have everyone write their initial thoughts down. Put those up on the wall, and make it clear that no idea is a bad one. There will be some silly ones, and encourage discussion around those. You’ll find that the best successes come when someone’s “crazy” idea inspires an actionable one from a peer.
– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

Goof Off

Vinny AntonioWhenever possible I try to start our meetings or brainstorm sessions out with a completely ridiculous activity. Just today I “twerked” before getting started, which—believe me—is not a good look. But it got everyone laughing, engaged, and focused. Those blank stares and drifting minds will disappear pretty quickly if you give them a reason to smile.
– Vinny AntonioVictory Marketing Agency

Have a Glass of Wine

Henry GlucroftIt helps that we sell it, but honestly, when trying to come up with great ideas, having a glass of wine loosens things up and gets people excited enough to think boldly.
– Henry GlucroftHenry’s / Airdrop

Prepare Thoughts in Advance

Derek FlanzraichThe biggest challenge in a brainstorming session occurs when people don’t work well off each other, but everyone absolutely agrees. Avoiding “groupthink” like this isn’t easy, but a sure-fire way to avoid this is asking people in advance to prepare ideas and bring original thoughts to the table.

Get Outside the Office

Andrew FayadWhen was the last time a great idea came to you while sitting at your desk? Conversation in a new environment or over a meal often leads to brand new ideas and creative thinking.

– Andrew FayadeLearning Mind

Spend Time Alone

Rameet ChawlaIt’s important to encourage employees to take chunks of quiet, alone time to think creatively. The majority of our design team is in London, which means they have five undisturbed hours to work before our NYC team wakes up to bother them.
– Rameet ChawlaFueled

Think Like Customers

Brittany HodakBecause we release about 50 products each year, we’re constantly looking for new creative ideas. I always challenge our employees to think like customers: What would a customer want this product to be if they could have anything in the world? It’s amazing how much creativity can come from simply shifting your perspective to another’s viewpoint of your product or service.
– Brittany HodakZinePak

Encourage Dumb Ideas

doreen-blochBe sure to open the floor to “dumb” ideas. Sometimes an idea seems absurd in a person’s head, but the concept can be transformed into a gem with the input of others. Encourage employees to propose ideas that seem ridiculous because most really creative concepts do come across as ridiculous at first. Through collaboration, these off-the-wall ideas can be packaged into programs that drive a business forward.
– Doreen BlochPoshly Inc.

Talk Over Happy Hour

Jim BelosicIt’s always nice to grab some pizza and maybe even a beer after regular hours with an individual or a team. I’m not talking about getting drunk, but just getting away from the office and talking about work in a low-pressure environment. The bottom line is that if you’re having a beer with your boss, you probably feel more relaxed and free to say what’s on your mind.
– Jim BelosicPancakes Laboratories/ShortStack

Stop Talking

Emerson SpartzYou have all manner of preconceived notions about the way things work, about how feasible things are and about what the best direction for the company is. Leave them at the door. Nothing will shut down employee creativity faster than you, their boss, invalidating their ideas.
– Emerson Spartz, Spartz


What is your favorite way to brainstorm? Let us know in the comments.



Featured Image: wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock
Category Careers
Scott Gerber

Scott Gerber is a serial entrepreneur, internationally syndicated business columnist, author (Never Get a ‘Real’ Job), TV commentator and founder ...

How to Fix Your Next Brainstorm Session

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