At SJC Marketing, we love a good brainstorming session. It usually involves a relaxed atmosphere, large post-its, colorful sharpies, lots of visuals and even more coffee. In addition, it requires an attitude of not taking yourself too seriously, staying open-minded and channeling your inner creative genius.
Sounds like fun, right? Yes! But sometimes, brainstorming sessions can get out of hand quickly. They can result in rabbit trails that aren’t productive, too many jokes (I know, not possible) or just a lack of energy. Because we’ve been there, done that, we have a process that we follow to ensure we make the most out of everyone’s time and are as productive as possible. Want to know the steps? Here they are to help you in your next brainstorming session.
Step One – Come With an Agenda
It’s especially easy to get off track if you don’t have a guide to stay on track in the first place. It seems like a given, but there are plenty of meetings that don’t start with an agenda, and this can lead to a free-for-all. Time is precious for all of us. If you have one hour for your brainstorming session and five topics to cover, you know you’ve got to set up a timeline to keep the flow going.
Step Two – Define the Problem/Task You Want to Solve
Is the purpose of the brainstorm to come up with the next quarter’s social media campaign, a new tagline for your client or a full on new marketing plan? Make it clear from the get-go what the purpose of the brainstorming session is so people’s wheels can start turning.
Step Three – Begin Discussion but Keep it Guided
Now to the fun part – let the great ideas roll in! There is no stupid idea … this is a safe space. For the best ideas? Snaps are coming your way.
Notice the “guided” word above. This task is for the role of the person leading the meeting. As fun as it is to get lost in thoughts, we can’t forget that all-important agenda. If we lose sight of this, we won’t get to complete the reason we scheduled the brainstorm in the first place, and then we’re back trying to find a meeting that fits on everyone’s calendar, and your deliverable to your client now has to be pushed back as well.
Step Four – The Weeding Process
All of the brilliant ideas have been put forward, but most likely, there are too many to move forward with. Thus, begins the weeding process. This doesn’t have to be long and painful. Come with a number in mind of ideas you’d like to take back to your client. If you want to present a few – great! You won’t have to weed out as many. If you’re hoping to take them that million-dollar idea, you’ll have to say “no” or “not now” to some other ideas. Hopefully you can keep them in the vault for later on.
Step Five – Deliver Tasks and Wrap-Up
There may be some next steps you have after the brainstorming session – some tactical follow-ups. Make sure everyone who is in the room leaves knowing what their task is with deadlines clearly communicated. This may very well be the most important step. It’s always more fun to just throw out fun ideas and then leave, and that may be your role, but for the most part, this is just the beginning step to completing a task for your client.
When you’ve wrapped up, keep the good vibes going. Take photos of all the brainstorm ideas that were thrown up on post-its. Send out a thank you to your team. (Or better yet, bring donuts and coffee to the meeting in the first place. They’ll always come back to support you after that.)
We thrive on brainstorming sessions at SJC, and we love having them with our clients and potential clients as well. And remember, brainstorming isn’t limited to marketing agencies. No matter what your industry, there is always room for creativity. However, God did make engineers and accountants, so if the creative juices are dried up in your workplace, reach out; we’d love to help.