By T.E. Cunningham

In this ever-evolving world of online distraction and struggling to find time to get everything done in the workday, sometimes creativity takes a back seat. Don’t let it! Brainstorming is a great way to fight tired thinking.

Here are ten quick tips for a successful brainstorming:

  • Choose One Goal to Accomplish. Brainstorming doesn’t mean that you should not have a focus – in fact just the opposite. Make sure everyone participating knows in advance what the topic is and what expectations are before the meeting


  • Encourage other members of other departments to attend with your team; you may be amazed by the additional insight they bring to the process, and it also helps provide a collaborative path inter-departmentally


  • Unique Location. If circumstances allow, take the meeting offsite. It’s a surefire way to help eliminate the distractions of daily office life and “emergencies;” you can create a multitude of fun environments and even theme your brainstorming out based on the location you choose. Get creative in choosing the locale with choices like the local zoo, an arboretum, vineyard


  • Food & Beverage. Keep the meeting full of energy with plenty of snacks and beverages (even alcohol in small servings, if your company will allow it)


  • No cell phones, iPads, laptops, etc. allowed


  • Choose a Facilitator. This person doesn’t need to be “the boss,” in fact it’s fun to switch it up each time you host a brainstorming. That said, this needs to be a strong enough person to steer the meeting back on course, as creativity and fun may take it off track


  • Choose a Notetaker. One person should be allowed the notetaking device of their choice but keep them hooked up to a big screen visible to the group. This will keep the notetaker from straying to other tasks, and keep the thoughts in front of the team


  • Have a Post-Meeting Plan. Ascertain the follow-up and responsibilities of all involved so that the great ideas the team came up with are vetted and implemented if appropriate


  • No Shutdowns. No one in the room is allowed to “shut down” another participant’s initial idea; the idea is to encourage creativity – not expect the entire team to have fully analyzed every idea they throw out for potential drawback. Be positive. I once had a colleague who had a yellow BS bean bag pouch that sat on the table in his brainstorming meetings, and it was thrown at anyone who was negative or tried to poison an idea, with the entire team crying, “bullsh@t” as it was thrown. It provided many laughs and bonding while enforcing a key success factor in this process – just don’t tell HR if you implement this one


  • Best Idea Wins. With an anonymous team vote – and no voting for yourself – award an idea of the meeting to a participant, even if it’s just an announcement or a $10 gift card to the local coffee shop; it’s one more chance to create goodwill and teamwork

Lastly, brainstorming at the end of the work week can be a great team building exercise and make Friday afternoons go by faster. They encourage us to tap into our creativity and share our ideas – no matter how crazy they may seem initially. One person’s crazy idea may lead to a conversation on how to solve a problem better. A word or phrase from one person can inspire others as can merely asking questions.

What are some of your favorite brainstorming exercises?