How to brainstorm better and faster, even from home

Maartje Dekker

Maartje Dekker

Let’s just start by stating the not so obvious: brainstorming is fun, and if you just rolled your eyes it only means you are doing it wrong. It’s no big news, brainstorming is one of the most underestimated gems in the marketing universe. Coming up with ideas can be a tricky matter, and a brainstorming strategy can really make or break the whole process. Sprints & Sneakers last training day was dedicated to the underrated potential of brainstorming: how to do it better, faster, and more effectively, and today we are sharing with you our tips and tricks to kill it in your next brainstorming session.Β 

Being blessed with the creativity gene can indeed make your life much easier, but that’s far from enough, coming up with ideas is a thought process that requires method and a clear strategy.Β 

How to start with your brainstorming session?

Tests and results might be what catches your eye, but in reality they are just the tip of the iceberg. Before ranking and running experiments, before results and scaling strategies, you need to remember it all starts with growth ideation πŸ’‘
This process consists of walking through all the phases of the funnel, leveraging multiple brainstorming techniques, and taking into account all the 19 traction channels to come up with ideas. Ideas are the fundamentals of every good growth strategy, hence the importance of setting up your brainstorming session right.Β 

1. PreparationΒ 

It’s the very first phase and is all about laying the groundwork for the next steps: you will need to define a clear goal and what you are going to focus on. What will you need?

  • Tons of post-its
  • Brown paper
  • Pens
  • Brainstorm room, physical or virtual, if you are working from home
  • An inspiring space and snacks are always a nice extra
  • A designated process supervisor
  • Alarm clock to keep track of the right timings

2. Proposal round and ice breakers

You now need to break the ice and stimulate the creative side. Surprise the participants with a creative round of proposals, here are some examples to get you started:

  • If you were to start your own business, what would it be?
  • Tell us about an object in your bag or on your key ring.
  • Who inspires you and why
  • What is the coolest experience you did in the past year?

Don’t be afraid to let the creativity flow freely. Pro tip: challenge yourself with some mind games and brain teasers, they will get you in the right mindset πŸ˜‰

3.Β Brainstorm

At least once in our life we all experienced that amazing moment when, out of nowhere, you come up with the right idea, the ultimate problem-solving solution. As perfect as it sounds, this scenario is way far from the reality of facts. The best marketing ideas rarely came out of the blue. For sure, unicorns ideas do exist, but on a daily basis, creativity requires work. Brainstorming can either be the life saving, cost-time effective solution or a slippery slope down to confusion and loss of time. Common myths see brainstorming being some kind of random thing, but it’s anything but random. It’s a scientific process, and here you will find some techniques to help you ease it:

  • Role-playing

On some cards, write down the names of famous people or cartoon characters. Distribute them amongst the participants and ask everyone what they would do if they were that person. Asking your colleague or client how would they react in a particular situation if they were Donald Duck, Barack Obama or Rocky balboa might seem unusual but will bring new, interesting points of view to the table.

  • The Disney Cycle Method

The Disney Cycle method consists of 3 different phases: the optimist, the realist, and the pessimist. During step 1, people can think big, with absolutely no boundaries. Wild ideas will emerge that may not be realistic, but so will more feasible ones. In step 2, ideas are made functional. In this phase, you examine what exactly is needed for them to work. During step 3 the real critical eye emerges: what are the biggest challenges, why wouldn’t it work? The idea behind this technique is that what survives this stage, it’s something worth implementing. It is important that the supervisor monitors the goals of each step.

  • Brainwriting

The participants each receive a brainwriting form (empty table form with three columns and six rows), two additional forms are put in the middle of the group. At the top of the form, the participants write down the question. Then, in the top row (with three empty squares), the participants have to fill-in ideas related to the problem mentioned. As soon as they fill the three squares, they place their form in the center and pick up a new sheet. There they fill in the next row and so on. This way, the participants can both express their own opinions and associate them with those the others have filled in. In a very short time, a multitude of ideas arises.

  • Pirate funnel / Mind storming

Determine a funnel phase you are going to focus on and write down as many ideas as possible within 5 minutes. Everyone pitches this one by one. These will then be clustered into topics. Pro tip: use post-its, it will be easier to move and group them. In this way, “post-its clouds” are formed. The bigger the cloud, the bigger the idea.

  • Mind mapping

It’s the most used form of brainstorming, you basically write down everything that comes to your mind, and only then you prioritize it.

4. Ideas ranking and evaluation

Always work out ideas immediately after a session. The timing, again, is crucial: make sure you reserve at least ten minutes at the end of the session for the ranking. After collecting the ideas you evaluate them based on the ICE score: the impact the idea is expected to have, the confidence is the probability that it is going to actually have an impact, and ease is the effort required for it to happen.

Brainstorming FAQ

1. Is it about quantity or quality?

Brainstorming is about bringing in knowledge from different people, and don’t forget though that the best ideas can come from unexpected people, so don’t be too picky πŸ˜‰ On a side note, do not overdo it, sure, the more the merrier, but make sure you keep a number that your organisation can manage.

2. Starting alone or together?

The quick answer is alone, definitely alone. To understand why, we need to take a deep dive into group psychology dynamics. Understanding how a person thinks when they’re alone compared to when together with other individuals is the very first step on the road to a better brainstorming strategy. Starting together will inevitably trigger what we call groupthink, group mechanism that plays a central role within the reasons why traditional brainstorming is proven to be less effective than the strategy we are about to tell you. The thing is, if you put a bunch of people together in a room and ask them to come up with ideas, everyone will start the session with their own thoughts but they will inevitably end up influencing each other and eventually merging into a few ideas, narrowing the list to a much smaller number.Β 

3. How to get our ideas come together when we, physically, can not?Β 

In these weird times, we want to look at the bright sides of things. The silver lining of working remotely when it comes to brainstorming is that it will be easier for more people to join an online session. We said it before and, risking to sound like a broken record, we will say it again: coming up with ideas is about shared knowledge, quantity before quality. More brains mean more ideas and smart working has the potential of bringing more people to the table.

4. Brainstorming: what NOT to do

There are indeed some no go’s, we call them Brainstorm killers and you should avoid them at all costs:

  • Do not judge
  • “Yes but”
  • That is not possible
  • Why change if it is still going well?
  • That’s not my job
  • It costs too much
  • Not allowed, policy issue
  • Has been tried before
  • Let’s put it off for a while
  • Someone else is about that
  • Now is not the right time
  • That is something for the future
  • Let’s think about it again
  • That does not fit within the procedure

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