I have been facilitating Brainstorming, strategy and ideation and new product development sessions for the past 15 years and here are my guidelines to help you generate awesome ideas:
1. Make the challenge a compelling one.
You want people to be engaged right from the start so set out clearly what you want to achieve and why it is important to you, the team and the organisation.
2. Invite a diverse group.
Ideally you want people close to the problem and some that are outside of it.
In particular ask for managers that deal with customers and partners so you have an external voice.
3. Set some pre-work.
I like doing this because you start to get people involved and thinking about the challenge and they might just come up with a new idea.
My favourite pre-work is to randomly assign an unrelated business or brand to each person and ask them for at least one idea they we can borrow, adapt or learn from.
4. Ask each person to bring along a Business-as-Usual, a Different and Radical idea.
This expands the range of ideas and in the first few ideas if you have 10 people, you already start with 30 ideas!
5. Select a venue that is appropriate to the challenge.
Try and be as creative about the venue selection as you can. For example, I was working on a kids brand so we ran the brainstorming session at a playground.
6. Play upbeat music and videos.
There is research that suggests that our mood impacts our creativity.
So try and create a positive feeling in the group.
7. Evaluate as you go.
Don’t leave evaluation until the end.
Sometimes you run out of time which is a shame and by evaluating as you go you can sort out the high potential ideas and spend more time developing these.
8. Vary the pace.
With my Speed Thinking and Blitz work I know that accelerating the pace at which the individual and group works can unlock greater creativity and stop filtering.
9. End with an Action
Too many brainstorming sessions end with a bunch of ideas that someone has to go and make sense of.
But the real goal of these types of sessions is to solve a problem rather than just create ideas for ideas sake.
You want participants to leave the session feeling engaged, energised and they have a clear view of what needs to be done, by whom.
Also don’t forget to say thank you and commit to having the output of the session sent round to everyone with a day or two (to ensure momentum).