Did you know that the term “brainstorm” actually has two meanings? You’re probably aware of the spontaneous problem-solving brainstorms where creative minds come together to think of amazing advertising ideas. But “brainstorm” can also refer to the sudden and seemingly inexplicable loss of one’s ability to think clearly. The fact that these two interpretations of the same term have such polar opposite meanings might seem odd at first. But if you’ve ever tried to come up with anything creative, you understand that the first type of brainstorm can get derailed by the second type of brainstorm all too often. So, in an effort to help you avoid the clouds of confusion that sometimes loom over your creative thinking sessions, here are 7 tips for better brainstorming.
1. Come up with a few ideas ahead of time
Brainstorming favors the well-prepared. Spend a little time before your brainstorming session to think of a few ideas on your own. You don’t necessarily have to share them all at once when you come together with the larger group. But when you get the ball rolling ahead of time, group sessions tend to flow much more smoothly.
2. There’s no such thing as a bad idea (yet)
When people fear the wrath of creative retribution from their colleagues, they refrain from speaking their minds and good ideas go unshared. When you begin your brainstorm sessions, make it clear that there’s there no such thing as a bad idea (yet). Throw everything on the wall and see what sticks. Your initial brainstorm session should be a judgment-free zone, where all ideas are considered. Besides, sometimes “bad ideas” are great ideas in disguise—just a few steps removed from your next winning concept.
3. Set the right mood
Believe it or not, the overall feeling in the room can have a big impact on your thinking. When the mood is somber and people are stressed, creativity suffers. On the other hand, a relaxed happy room is much more conducive to creativity. Don’t be afraid to crack jokes or try to make people laugh. Even if your humor has nothing to do with the subject of your brainstorm, you can set the mood with how you think, feel, and act for a better brainstorming session.
4. Have inspiration resources at the ready
Every brainstorming session should have plenty of sources of inspiration at the ready. This inspiration could be as close to the subject matter as a client’s brand book to help you find the right voice. Or, it could be something as obscure as a random magazine, a catchy tune, or quick web search for keywords. Turn to whatever inspiration helps the creative juices flow. Because great ideas usually come from the most unlikely of places.
5. Research idioms and other common phrases
Every creative campaign comes with a list of at least a few keywords. These words can usually be determined simply by saying what you’re trying to accomplish in plain language. And once you’ve said something simply and to the point, you can start to approach it from a creative perspective. Underline a few keywords and check online resources for common idioms. Then, see if you can put a spin on a commonly known phrase to help you bring attention to your subject.
6. Find ways to get distracted
Some of the worst brainstorming sessions start with the best intentions. A group of creatives gets together determined to solve a problem and come up with a million-dollar idea only to find that overconcentrating on the issue has completely backfired. There is such a thing as trying too hard to be creative. If ideas aren’t quite connecting, step away and see what happens. Get up, walk around, play a game of darts, or just take a bathroom break and let your subconscious solve the problem for you.
7. Take your own ideas with a grain of salt
For whatever reason, your own ideas always sound better in your head. The idea could be complete garbage. But because you came up with it, you’re determined to defend it to the death. If you think of an idea that’s pure, unadulterated genius, but your clearly dimwitted coworkers can’t seem to grasp the creative concept, there’s a chance it might not be so genius after all. Take your own ideas with a grain of salt. If they catch on with the rest of the group, you can all celebrate your brilliance together.
Coming up with creative ideas can be hard. So, whether you’re a seasoned expert at brainstorming or just really good at getting distracted by brainstorms, try these 7 tips to think creatively and conduct better brainstorming sessions.