3 Tips to Think Big in Brainstorming Sessions

As a marketing agency, we lean on our creative brainstorming sessions to produce innovative ideas that will blow our clients away on even the most ordinary projects.

We know that productive brainstorming is beneficial in a number of different creative processes, but mostly, it keeps us on our toes and helps us avoid thinking within a narrow point of view.

Speaking of a narrow point of view, we’ve found that when faced with a limited number of choices, we can sometimes make poor decisions simply because we have not stepped back and looked at the challenge or opportunity through a different perspective. A different perspective or a wider lens could lead us to stronger recommendations.

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While we don’t have a prescribed formula for inventing crazy awesome ideas, here are some ideas pulled from first-hand experience of hitting the wall during brainstorming sessions now and again:

1. Identify the problem or challenge

When planning a brainstorming session, start by asking yourself, “What does a wildly successful outcome for this meeting look like?” This concept came from Mike Williams, CEO of the David Allen Company.  Instead of entering a brainstorming meeting with little direction, know what you want to accomplish and have set objective to achieving a solution.

  • Identify the challenge
  • Experiment with possible objectives for overcoming the obstacle
  • Think about any alternative methods
  • Select the best option.

2. Lay out all objectives of possible solutions

So you have your challenge laid before you, and your team has listed a few solutions to achieve victory. The next step would be to hone in on each solution to really analyze the root of what you want to solve—then find measurable objectives.

For example, a recent Forbes article talks about a designer who wanted to create a way for cyclists to drink coffee on a ride, essentially a “spill-proof coffee cup lid.” After some brainstorming the true objective of his quest, he invented the vision statement, “helping bike commuters to drink coffee without spilling it or burning their tongues.” In a brainstorming session, consider the true objectives of your accrued solutions and qualify your choices from there.

3. Don’t get stuck on one idea

During these, as we call them, “green light” sessions, no idea is a bad idea. Everyone gets a chance to contribute their input, even if it seems outlandish. This type of brainstorming results in many ideas being shot out like bullets in a shooting range. It’s important not only to have a scribe to document all of your ideas, but also to avoid anchoring on one solution.

I’ve seen it happen before… where one person will throw out their solution and we anchor to that idea. As we are stuck on that objective, we exclude other goals as a result.  One way to avoid being anchored to one solution that only meets a single objective is to pre-brainstorm and come up with a number of other possibilities to bring to the table.

According to the book, Decisive, the author cites a study by Paul Nutt that found only 29% of organizations considered more than one alternative when making essential business decisions. So, a lot of us are stuck in too many binary, “whether or not” sets of choices. Nutt found the decisions based on “whether or not” reasoning failed 52% of the time over the long term, vs. only 32% of the decisions with two or more alternatives. So, widen your options, broaden your thoughts. Think bigger.