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10 Tips for a productive brainstorming session

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Do you walk away from brainstorming sessions with a feeling of not having accomplished much? You’re not alone. OLIVER Design Team Lead, Tom Lowe, shares his 10 tips for making your next creative brainstorming session the most productive ever.

My team and I have been working hard to perfect our brainstorming sessions to maximise productivity. We have had some great results recently, including winning the work from a big competitor and most recently ‘blowing the client’s mind’ on a large project.

This was only possible by tailoring how the session should work based on the type of brief. However, there are general rules that I apply to all of our sessions. Follow these rules and you’re sure to walk away from your next brainstorming session with plenty of actionable ideas.

1. Assign a host. The host should be someone who is able to lead and mediate the session. The key to a successful brainstorming session is putting a form of structure in place. The host should be able to guide the group back on task if they stray too far from the brief.

2. Understand the brief. Before the session, the host needs to go through the brief in detail. Extract as much applicable information as possible. Make sure any pieces of client jargon can easily be explained to the team. Without the team fully understanding the brief, the session will be wasted.

3. Question the brief. Always question the brief before your brainstorm. Even if it has been taken by a creative, there will always be questions and creative propositions that they didn’t think of. Make sure these are made clear before the session starts.

4. Meet at the best ‘creative time’ of day. Try to host your session in the late morning, before lunch. This seems to be people’s most creative time and will get more ideas flowing.

5. Leave anything digital behind. Gather around a large table with sketch pads, pens and Post-it notes (very handy). Bring your inspiration in form of books, style libraries, etc. If you need your computers, use them only for gaining inspiration. This is a purely physical media session – draw, paint and write rather than type.

6. Moodboards and storyboards are great tools. Use moodboards, storyboards and any other ways to express your ideas. This is one of the few times in a project you can be truly creative and go crazy.

7. Leave ego and titles at your desk. A brainstorming session just won’t work if we are scared of stepping on each other’s toes. Whether junior or senior in the team, at the brainstorming table, we are all equals.

8. Pop in rather than opt out. If some members aren’t able to join the full session, get them to pop in occasionally to contribute. Sometimes an outsider can give the session a whole new path to explore. Plus, this isn’t just a session for creatives – everyone should be invited, from ops managers to project managers.

9. There’s no such thing as a stupid idea. Don’t start negative comments about ideas. If it doesn’t work, adapt it, expand on it and make it work. Incredible ideas can grow from the simplest comment.

10. Don’t worry about straying. Straying off-brief for a few moments doesn’t have to be a bad idea. It may lead to a more creative way to tackle the challenge. You can always get any ideas back on to brief afterwards.

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