With a new content team at iProspect UK, we’ve made 2019 the year for refining our brainstorming process, and we think we just about have it nailed.
Our key discovery is that few people come up with their best and most original ideas in the brainstorm itself. It’s often before or after – when you’re in the shower, on your commute or falling asleep – that brainwaves will occur.
Read on for our recommendations of what to do before, during and after a brainstorm to get the best ideas out of your team.
Choose your attendees
Firstly, think about who you want to invite. We’ve found six to be the optimum number of attendees, as there are enough people to generate a good number of ideas, but few enough that the room is manageable. When deciding who to invite, think about who has worked with similar clients or themes, and invite not only members of the content and outreach team, but also colleagues from your account team who have a good understanding of the client and what they like.
Hold a focus group
We’ve found that running a focus group prior to your brainstorm with individuals from your target audience is a good way to ensure you’re focusing your efforts in the right direction. If you’re working on an idea around parenting, first-time buyers or retirement, for example, invite people that fall into these demographics along to pick their brains about issues and ideas that resonate with them. Another idea is to send out a survey to colleague and friends so that you have data to inform your brainstorm.
Send out a brief
A few days before your brainstorm, send a short brief to participants outlining the client, the topics and the campaign KPIs. Include examples of competitor campaigns that have gone well, along with any other examples of content that you like the idea/format of to inspire attendees and get them thinking.
This will ensure that participants turn up to your brainstorm already in the right mindset and with some ideas to bring to the table. Not only will this save you precious time at the start your brainstorm, it will also provide the room with some thought starters to kick things off.
Elect a chairperson
When a group of people come together for a creative task like this, it’s easy for everyone to get excited and distracted (trust me, I’m the biggest culprit). Always have someone leading the brainstorm, keeping track of time and refocusing the group.
Structure your brainstorm
We’ve found that the ideal duration of a brainstorm is an hour. Not so short that the whole event feels rushed, but not so long that attention starts to wander. Break up your brainstorm into an ice breaker, idea generation, and idea consolidation.
Ice breakers might include coming up with the worst possible idea, word association, or Pictionary related to the topic. These should only last a couple of minutes, but they’re invaluable when it comes to focusing the room and getting everyone talking.
Consider different personality types
When it comes to idea generation, different personality types will brainstorm differently. The more extroverted among us might enjoy group discussion, breaking off into teams and coming up with ideas communally.
The more introverted might prefer to work independently to generate ideas. A technique we’ve found particularly productive is brainwriting - each person has three minutes to write down three ideas on a sheet of paper. Once the time is up, pass the paper around the table clockwise, and you then have another three minutes to either expand on the new ideas in front of you, or come up with three brand new ideas.
At the end of this stage you should have generated dozens of ideas. Some will be terrible, but some will be the building blocks of some brilliant campaign ideas.
Flesh out the best ideas
Use the last section of your brainstorm to choose a handful of your favourite ideas and expand upon them as a group or in smaller teams. Think about how each concept would be visualised, what data sources you would use, target publications and possible headlines.
Take some time to think
Hopefully you’ll have come up with some brilliant ideas before and during the brainstorm session, but it’s worth taking a couple of days to reflect on these ideas and see if you have any further brainwaves. Reflect on what you’ve come up with, talk the ideas through, look at what has already been done around these topics and research possible data sources. You may even want to hold a secondary brainstorm with some different participants to get their feedback on the ideas and see if you can expand on what you have already.
Score your ideas
Once you have a handful of ideas that you feel fairly confident with, write them up and send them around your team for feedback. Ask people to vote on and rank each idea and give them the opportunity to include any ideas on how these concepts could be expanded or visualised.
There’s no one-size-fits all approach to brainstorming, but with preparation, structure, the right attendees, and time for post-research and evaluation, you should come up with some golden ideas!