14th April 2020
Let the creativity flow: An Easy 3-step approach to Brainstorming
Creativity is something that can come around when the moon shines bright and the planets are favorably aligned. You can also use skillful means to generate it anytime you like. Here, Frederik from our SoMe team explains the 3 easy steps that he and his team members use to come up with great ideas, fast.
1. Create a “Room of Many Voices”
“A common misconception about brainstorming is that it is about putting people in a room and having a leader run the dialogue. This is a recipe for disaster!” says Frederik, who has been arranging brainstorms throughout his career at Traffic Lab.
“The problem with the ‘class dialogue’ is that it rarely hears the voices that weren’t already loud in the first place. A good brainstorming session should light a spark in all its participants, creating a ‘room of many voices’. It is here that the new and original ideas are found!”
The way to create a room of many voices is to give each individual time for reflection. Present the problem at hand in a comprehensive manner, then do an exercise that lets participants come up with their own ideas. This is the foundation of what is sometimes called a ‘design sprint’.
Recommended Exercise for Step 1: Crazy Eight:
Crazy Eight is a fun and simple brainstorm exercise. It can be adjusted according to needs, but basically works like this:
- Each participant gets a pen and paper and has to formulate 8 ideas within 8 minutes
- There is no talking during the exercise
- Once the clock runs out, papers are traded, and participants give each other feedback
2. Mold Your Ideas into Concepts
After a creative sprint like the one outlined above, it is important to quickly move on and give the new-born ideas shape and structure.
In this second phase, you probably want to have a whiteboard and someone who is good at dividing ideas into categories. This person could be a team leader or any member of the group who is well-trusted and has a way with organizing:
“Remember that everyone can be creative. Given the right conditions, every individual has the ability to come up with unique and magical ideas. However, to mold these ideas into useful concepts is something that takes discipline and effort, and it is best done as a group.”
Recommended Exercise for Step 2 (a): Sticky votes
- Use a whiteboard to write up the ideas generated by the participants, organizing them into categories as neatly as possible. From here, circle in on the essential ideas by letting each participant vote for the ideas they like best with post its.
- Remember to not rush the process and allow things to be imperfect – your aim is not to develop a finished concept here and now:
“In brainstorming, we work with prototypes, never with finished concepts. Too much obligation kills the creative spirit. One should always enter the room with the attitude that what one is making is nothing more than a sketch.”
Recommended Exercise for Step 2 (b): Switch surroundings
“Once you have used the whiteboard to circle in on the idea that really matters, it can be very useful to test its structure by taking it out of its immediate context. One way to do this is by simply switching surroundings: Have a walk, go to another meeting room, or even go for a drink!”
Another more demanding exercise could be to rearrange written ideas into physical models, for example by drawing or using playdough.
3. Present and Celebrate!
Once you have completed your design sprint and gone through the painstaking process of polishing gems and killing darlings, it’s time to present the outcome. You could have each workgroup present to the room or do a collective presentation:
“In the final phase of a brainstorm, you will ideally have progressed from individual exercise to sharing within the largest possible group. If each participant has had the time to reflect and is then included within a larger dialogue, you have achieved a lot!”
Recommended Exercise for Step 3: Evaluation
Summon up today’s brainstorm and let each participant talk about how they have experienced the process. It might be helpful to ask questions like: “What was the best part of today?” or “what do you think is the weakest part of the concept we have come up with so far?”
Remember to celebrate what you have achieved during each brainstorm, even if it’s only the first steps of a long road. Once you have opened up to ideas and communication, things begin to fly!
The progression of a brainstorming session should be from the individual to the group. First, give each participant the time to work on their ideas, and then slowly but steadily work towards more coherent concepts through group dialogue, ending with collective discussion.
Celebrate your victories and abandon your failures. No matter the outcome of a single brainstorm, you have still created the foundation for better communication and more engagement within your team!
Frederik works as SoMe Manager at Traffic Lab. He holds a Diploma in Design Management from The Royal Danish Art Academy and orchestrates brainstorms at Traffic Lab on a regular basis. In his spare time, Frederik enjoys CrossFit, motorcycling, and post-apocalyptic comic books.