How to get the most out of creative brainstorms

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    • 16th July 2019

    The humble brainstorm is a vital tool in the creative professional's toolkit.

    However, if you’re a recent graduate or career changer, you might not be sure of the best brainstorming approach. We’re here to give you the knowledge you need to hit it off, in any marketing jobs in West Yorkshire.

    In this article we’ll show you how to brainstorm most effectively. We’ll explore why brainstorms matter, the do’s and don’ts of brainstorming, and how to lead a brainstorm yourself.

    Why do brainstorms matter?

    Brainstorming has been around for a long time, first taking off in the early 1940s. It’s not surprising the concept has lasted this long, as brainstorming comes with multiple benefits.

    person wearing pink shoes in front of graffiti'd wall
    Consider other perspectives to add life and colour to your ideas.

    They bring together different viewpoints, opening up fruitful discussion on a topic.

    They pull you out of your own head, and encourage you to put yourself in other people’s shoes.

    There’s a strong team-building aspect to them, helping you build stronger professional bonds with your colleagues.

    Creative Brainstorm Do’s

    Many brainstorms have one person who doesn’t get stuck in. When you’re taking part, we’re sure you don’t want to be that guy (or girl). Follow our do’s and don’ts to help you shine in your next marketing job.

    person holding pens in front of blank sticky notes
    In brainstorming, fortune always favours the prepared.

    1. Be in the mindset to get creative

    Make sure you read the agenda and know the overall objective of a brainstorm before you go into it. Try to come up with three or four ideas before you join the brainstorm, too. But don’t rush this preparation! Take some time to develop these ideas; an idea devised five minutes beforehand won’t be nearly as strong.

    When you do show up to the brainstorm, have an open mind. Be ready to share your ideas, but make sure you listen to other people’s ideas too.

    You should also try to avoid brainstorms after big meetings, like client pitches or performance reviews. Meetings of this type demand concentration; coming out of these and plunging into a brainstorm is likely to affect your creativity in the short term. Consider sitting the brainstorm out or even asking for it to be postponed. You can’t guarantee you’ll have the right mindset when it arrives.

    2. Build on ideas from others

    It’s important to remember that brainstorming is about working together. Try to build upon other people’s ideas where you can; most ideas can be built upon and fleshed out. At the same time, someone else’s perspective may let them build upon your ideas as well.

    The person who shines in a brainstorm isn’t always the one with the winning idea. It’s the one who supports the entire team, and helps bring ideas into better focus.

    3. Enjoy it

    A brainstorm is—by its very nature—playful and freeform. It works best when the people brainstorming are enjoying themselves. Don’t worry too much about sounding silly or impractical; relax! This makes it more likely you’ll come up with a great idea.

    When you’re in the brainstorm, try a few short creative activities to get the inspiration flowing. Word games, mood boards and simple doodling are all great choices.

    Creative Brainstorm Don’ts

    red traffic light in front of city building
    Try to avoid putting the brakes on other people’s ideas.

    While there’s certainly a right way to brainstorm, this also means there’s a wrong way. Watch out for these common pitfalls to keep the brainstorm working effectively.

    1. Judge ideas in the middle of the brainstorm

    Picture this: a teammate is explaining their idea, but it’s not fully thought out. Because of this, you dismiss it on the basis it’s been done before, or your budget is too small, or it’s just too far out there as an idea.

    This is rarely the right move. Creativity depends on taking big, unexpected steps for long-term success, and brainstorms need a constant stream of conversation to get results. Shutting down ideas because they’re (at first glance) impractical sabotages the creativity of your colleagues.

    2. Just rattle through your ideas and then stop talking

    We talked earlier about coming armed with ideas, but don’t get too precious about them! After all, brainstorms are about expanding upon and mixing together ideas, rather than preserving them in amber. Be prepared to embrace a brainstorm’s creative magic; otherwise, you may as well email your ideas and be done with it.

    3. Talk over someone

    It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of brainstorming and let your ideas run away with you. Enjoy it while it lasts, but make sure your colleagues get a chance to talk as well. You should also make sure you aren’t talking over someone else’s ideas; after all, they’re just as important as yours.

    How to lead a brainstorm

    setting timer on apple watch
    Brainstorming works well when you keep an eye on the time.

    You’re likely to take part in several different brainstorms, but what about leading them? If you ever need to lead a brainstorm (or you’re thinking about doing so) you can follow these tips to ensure it goes smoothly.

    1. Establish a purpose

    Before you kick things off, you need to give your team a clear understanding of why they’re here. Are you looking for a new product name, a new marketing strategy, or something else entirely? Make sure you also give them any background information they need to come up with a smash hit campaign.

    2. Assemble your crew

    Brainstorms work best when you’ve got the right mix of participants in them. Try and invite people with different interests and backgrounds; this is a great way to get the diverse range of perspectives a brainstorm needs.

    If someone from senior management takes part in the brainstorm, don’t be afraid to assert yourself a little. We all have a natural instinct to the follow the leader, especially in business contexts. But remember: in this situation, you’re the leader. Your colleagues have to take their cues from you if the brainstorm is to work.

    3. Set a time limit

    You want to devote a good chunk of time to your brainstorming, but we can only brainstorm effectively for so long. Set a strict time limit; it’s better to have a short, intense session instead of a long one that loses momentum. We recommend brainstorming for about twenty minutes at a time to keep people focussed.

    Make sure you tell everyone about the time limit before the brainstorm begins, so they know exactly what they’re working with.

    4. Get everyone to think big

    We touched on this earlier, but to reiterate: the best brainstorms have a lot of energy. Encourage your team to come up with big and outrageous ideas, and worry about practical analysis after the fact. Even if you don’t use the crazy ideas, they can help you get closer to the winning one.

    5. Have one conversation at a time

    It’s likely you’ll have more than one person trying to talk at once. Sometimes this can be down to enthusiasm, but sometimes it’s just one person wanting your undivided attention. Keep everyone on the same page with a single conversation.

    6. Select your shortlist

    By the end of the brainstorm you’ll have plenty of ideas to consider. Again, though, less is more: choose a few ideas (say, three to five) that you think stand out. Don’t discard the rest, though! You may find you need to change an idea following further research.

    You should also avoid getting too precious with these ideas, even if you’re happy with them at the moment. No idea emerges fully-formed; each one needs polishing to really stand out.

    7. Follow through with them

    After the brainstorm is over, write up the key ideas and tell everyone what the next steps are. Do this even if they aren’t involved with the next steps; people appreciate being kept up to date. It may  encourage them to take part in brainstorms in the future. You can also let the team know if the ideas come to fruition later on.

    Don’t forget: a brainstorm with no ideas being used or followed up on is basically a waste of time all around.


    Help Inspiration Strike

    While a brainstorm needs to have a freeform attitude, it’s also something that needs planning and consideration to work effectively. Know what you want to achieve, make space for everyone’s ideas, and make sure you put the ideas to practical use. By following these guidelines, your brainstorms will become an essential part of your next marketing project!

    At Gloss Recruitment, we’re proud of our knowledge of marketing jobs in West Yorkshire. We’ve drawn upon this knowledge for a number of other articles: brush up on your agency lingo with our guide to the jargon of creative agencies. If you’re starting a new job soon, learn how to settle into agency life with this article.

    If you’re looking for a job in Leeds’ creative sector, why not send us your CV? Gloss specialises in recruiting for creative and marketing jobs, and we take an in-depth look at all parts of the job search. We’ll help you refine your CV, polish your portfolio and improve your interview techniques, ensuring your dream job is closer than ever.

    You can visit our Contact Us page to send us your CV, or call us now on 0870 3219788.