My brain is officially fried on brainstorming. It’s just been one of those weeks and yes, I’m aware it’s only Wednesday. Please send Starbuck’s gift cards to firstname.lastname@example.org
The concept of the brainstorm was first developed in the 1930s by Alex Faickney Osborn and popularized in his book Applied Imagination. Since its inception, brainstorming has been applied in almost all disciplines, but is most widely used by marketers and creative professionals.
Osborn described brainstorming as “a conference technique by which a group attempts to find a solution for a specific problem by amassing all the ideas spontaneously by its members”. The rules of brainstorming per Osborn are as follows:
- No criticism of ideas
- Go for large quantities of ideas
- Build on each other’s ideas
- Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas
The theory behind Osborn’s rules is that quantity would eventually equal quality – that generating enough ideas and expanding on those ideas in a group, would often produce your next big win or “ah-ha” moment.
In my experience, brainstorming results in people really jazzed up about a lot great tactics, and fails to focus on the realistic strategy or framework to take them to market. While getting a group together to brainstorm an idea can feel productive, too many ideas can cloud strategic action. Enter…
Brainstorming for Results (and Action!)
- Start with the need. Whether the need spawned out of a specific pain point or a new need within your business, clearly define what you’re trying to solve for.
- Select a small group of 3 thinkers within your team or boundary partners, and share the need with them. My recommendation is through a BCC email, so that you eliminate groupthink right from the start and allow recipients to process the request at their own speed.
“Most of the heavy creative lifting happens when we’re by ourselves, working on our own. We’re in a better position to evaluate the merits of an idea after we’ve given a topic some thought, not when encountering it for the first time.” (99u)
- Allow 24 hours for your group to begin generating ideas independently before joining a group meeting. Pull the small group together to share their initial thoughts right before close of business but don’t allow them to brainstorm further, only to absorb and ask clarifying questions. Studies show that sleep can be one of the most effective ways for your brain to process a problem, and hosting a kick-off meeting with your thinkers at the end of the day will put your problem at the top of their processing list overnight.
- Re-group first thing in the morning and get to work within your small group. According to the productivity blog 99u, a group’s ability to collaborate is at its strongest when it comes time to execute. Once your small team has a working framework established, engage a project team to vet your idea, assign actions, and execute on strategic next steps.
I strongly feel that collaboration between trusted partners is invaluable; however it’s how you approach collaboration that is key. How do you successfully balance ideation and execution in your shop?
Holland Dombeck McCue is the former editor turned blogger here at Fistful of Talent. She plays in the employment branding and B2B marketing space and currently heads up Recruitment Marketing and Global Employment Branding for Delta Air Lines. So, it goes without saying that the opinions shared on FOT are hers and hers alone. She wishes it could go without saying, but hey, Legal runs a tight ship…