Creating fresh, valuable content takes creativity. But creativity can be a scary, demoralizing thing. Are my ideas different? Will prospects and customers find them appealing? Oftentimes, just coming up with ideas can be even more daunting than creating the content that completes the ideas themselves. But just because you don’t consider yourself a creative person or you don’t work in a creative field, doesn't mean you (and your teammates) don't have great ideas for your company. So here are six helpful techniques to run a successful brainstorming session so you can cultivate the best ideas and, ultimately, the best content possible.
1. Identify Your Goal(s)
Before even thinking about sending out a meeting invite and mobilizing your teammates together, you need to decide what your actual goal is, and make sure the entire team has a clear understanding of that goal. Having ideas is great, but if they don’t turn into the 1,000 extra Facebook followers you needed or the 50 more leads you want to generate, the whole thing may end up being a complete waste of time and energy.
2. Decide Who Should Attend Your Brainstorming Session
Now that you have your goal set, it's time to figure out whom to invite. The people who will actually be doing the work is a given. But you also need to have some wild cards. These are people who may see the project from a different perspective or may be able to come up with ideas you never even considered. Having an outsider’s perspective is crucial, since you don't want to be tied down by the same boring, “heard that already” ideas. Consider inviting those outside the marketing team such as a sales person or colleagues from different departments.
3. Choose a Friendly, Comfortable Environment
Overall, you want to make people in your brainstorming session feel comfortable enough to share their ideas. A relaxed environment allows people de-stress and think freely about coming up with the best possible ideas. Personally, I like to bake. Bringing in treats, drinks, or just tossing around a football can foster idea sharing without people even realizing what is going on. Plus, if baked goods are involved, you might get even encourage more people to get in on the meeting and share their creativity. In the end, if you're not also having fun, you’re not doing it right.
4. Get Brainstorming!
For some reason, no one ever likes to go first. It is your job as the meeting leader to come up with the first idea to start people off and get the creative juices flowing. You want to make sure to re-state your goals to the group, and ensure that your first idea correlates with those goals so the rest of the group follows suit. While it may seem weird to say, oftentimes you don’t want your first idea to be the best idea you’ve got. People might get stuck there and other (maybe better) ideas will never be brought up. Middle of the road is okay, as long as you are leading people in the right direction for amazing ideas.
5. Don't Discourage Silence, and Yes, There ARE Bad Ideas
Sometimes people get worried when there is silence during these types of meetings. Where are all the good ideas?! You have to be aware of the difference between, “I have nothing left to say” silence and “Just let me have room to think” silence. Just because people aren’t saying anything doesn’t mean they won’t say something soon. However, if the silence does last too long, it is your job to steer the conversation in a new direction to get people excited and talking again. Therefore, come prepared with a few premeditated ideas you can use in to get people going again when the session starts getting stale.
Speaking of a new direction, you know that old saying “There’s no such thing as a bad idea”? Well, that's not entirely true. Sure, you don’t want to put people down, but if the discussion is all of a sudden no longer aligning with your overall goal(s), while the ideas may not be bad, they might be wrong. It is your job as the team leader to know when you have gone off course and lead the group back to the task at hand.
6. Know When to Call it Quits
You never want to keep people in one place too long, especially during a brainstorming session. No one wants to come to the boring, drawn out brainstorming sessions. Know when you have generated enough good ideas. Know when people have given their best. At the end of your meeting, review the list once more to see if it sparks any additional ideas, and then call it a day.
In truth, there is no one, uniform way to run a brainstorm. People work better in different environments and react better to different scenarios. Figure out what works for your team, change it, work with it, and remember to keep people on their toes.
What are some of the best brainstorming techniques your team has used? What advice do you have to foster creative content ideas?
Image Credit: Peter Jackson