How do you generate new ideas for your business promotion? If you want to create a compelling message with your PR, marketing or design, then fresh ideas are essential.
Brainstorming can be applied to an entire campaign, or elements such as corporate branding, colour schemes, logos, slogans, straplines or social media strategy.
In his seminal 1939 book A Technique for Producing Ideas, James Webb Young puts the idea-creation process into five stages:
- Gather your raw materials. These are the elements you are working with, which can include physical materials, key facts and overall objectives.
- Play with the materials by developing associations between each of the elements, building links, looking at things in a new way, and free-associating.
- Taking a breather is crucial. Put the project down for a while, and do something fun which stimulates your imagination, like going for lunch, taking a walk or switching your attention to another task.
- The ‘light-bulb’ moment. Allow the idea to pop into your mind. This will usually happen when you’re not actually thinking about it.
- Test your ideas. Hold them up to criticism and analysis. See if your ideas meet your objectives.
Brainstorming as a team means that everyone is on the same page from the very start. Each team member will feel invested in the success of the project because they helped to create it. Here are some tips for running a successful group brainstorming session.
Have a clear brief
What are the key messages that you want to get across? What does your audience need to know, and what are they being encouraged to do? What is the tone? Having a clear brief will give the team something to measure their ideas against after brainstorming.
Have a moderator
Choose someone to facilitate the session and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to share their thoughts.
Set the scene
Create a relaxing environment where you can visually share your ideas – use a whiteboard, flipchart or table surface.
Leave judgment until the end
Remember this is brainstorming, not critical thinking. Anything goes. Judging or analyzing stops the flow of ideas. Bad ideas are stepping stones to better ideas, so don’t be scared of the brief. You can edit later.
Embrace different learning styles
Visual (seeing), auditory (hearing) and kinesthetic (moving). Draw stick figures. Enjoy the silence or play soothing music. Stand up and walk around. If your brief is all text, then draw pictures of the different elements and see how they inter-relate. Try mind-mapping and cubing to help this process along.
Feeling stumped or tired? Take a coffee break or switch seats.
Are you too close to the project to really see it? Are you clinging to ideas, even if they don’t work? Allow others to bring a fresh viewpoint. Hiring a creative agency can help you with this.
Keep an ideas box
Maybe you haven’t had a golden idea during the session, but you’ve set the wheels in motion. Your team might have flashes of insight after the session, so keep an ideas box where people can drop in their suggestions. This also provides anonymity for those who are not confident to share their ideas.
Have another check-in
Leave the ideas to marinate for a few days and then come back together. Work through your ideas and see whether they meet your objectives. This is when you can begin to edit and refine.
I’d love to hear your brainstorming techniques. What works for you?
David Wright is New Business and PR Executive at Lava, an award-winning marketing communications agency based in Lincoln and Nottingham. David makes connections with the business community, and support clients across both trade and consumer accounts. He has a degree in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths College, University of London.