What NOT to do when Running a Brainstorm

A few weeks ago our senior management team participated in a two-day training conducted by Idea Champions.  The goal of the meeting was to learn how to better facilitate brainstorms and unleash our creativity.  We’ve all experienced the same rut.  How do we ignite creativity, gain full participation and walk away with actionable ideas that the client will love?  For me personally, the most important things I learned from the training were what NOT to do.  Here we go….

  1. Do not show up to a brainstorm unprepared. Open ended and unorganized brainstorms take you nowhere.  As part of planning for a brainstorm be sure to share a download with the participants in advance of the meeting.  To kick off the brainstorm, encourage participants to bring two or three thought starters.  If they arrive unprepared for the brainstorm it is ok to ask them to leave.
  2. Do not always follow the same format. Have each participant write their ideas on a post-it note to get started.  Go around the room in a round robin style and get everyone to participate.  Break up into groups and have each group present their top three ideas at the end of ten minutes.  Mix it up to keep people on their toes.
  3. Do not start a brainstorm until you ask a question. Seems simple enough, but too often we jump into a brainstorm without asking a question.  “How can we increase awareness of this brand?”, “How can we get someone to try a new product or service?” or “Why isn’t anyone watching our video?”
  4. Do not answer the question without a verb. The verb answers the question and creates an action.  For example, “How can we increase awareness of this brand?”
    •  -Create a man in the street video and share on YouTube
    •  -Pitch a top ten list to the media
    •  -Launch a road show
    •  -Host a blogger event
  5. Do not obsess over one great idea. This is always a challenge for me.  I walk into the brainstorm convinced that I know what the answer should be and close down my thinking to new approaches. The purpose of a brainstorm is to find ideas that are below the surface.  Allow the ideas to flow in bulk – without judgement.  There will be plenty of time to rule ideas out later.  For now, empower the group to share their craziest ideas.
  6. Do not hide the ideas. It is important to visually scribe the brainstorm so that each participant can build on ideas that have already been stated.  Use white boards, notes or online presentations to bring ideas to life.
  7. Don’t walk away from the brainstorm without identifying and idea champion. The idea champion will commit to bring the ideas to life.


Bottom-line, do not be afraid to try something new.  Your team will be energized and your clients will benefit from the results.

Annie Perkins
Vice President



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