Why Your Brainstorming Isn’t Working and What To Do About It (with template)

Good ol’ ideas.

Most of us aren’t short of them..

..until we need a good one.

I’ve run teams of people from two to twenty two and there was regularly a need to come up with ideas to execute.

Everyone piles into a room with a whiteboard. Shouts out some stuff, takes a photo and goes away to execute their interpretation of what was talked about.

The ‘rules’ of brainstorming generally are:

  • Judgement and criticism are barred
  • Wildness of ideas is encouraged
  • Large quantity of ideas is desirable
  • Combining and building off ideas is encouraged

There’s a big problem with the first 3 and the last one is underrated; but more on that in a minute.

First the problems:

“Judgement and criticism are barred” – In this environment extroverts tend to dominate exchanges. They are more likely to push ‘their’ idea. Even if it’s obvious to others it is weak. Introverts are less likely to push their idea and tend to suffer from stage fright, especially in large groups.

“Wildness of ideas is encouraged” – the majority of the time boring ideas are easier, cheaper and faster to execute. Wild ideas may make you look cool but often come with a level of complexity that mean they shouldn’t be a priority.

“Large quantity of ideas” – in my experience even the largest, most well resourced organisations lack the resource to execute large number of changes all at once. Picking your priorities is key. Having a large quantity of ideas just creates decision fatigue and FOMO.

“Combining and building off ideas is encouraged” – it’s not encouraged but it’s essential. But for the reasons I’ve already listed it doesn’t often happen.

One of my favourite writers, James Altucher calls it Idea Sex. Two ideas come together and create a better idea. You need to create an environment where everyone’s ideas come together and make sweet love….

Better Brainstorming

To create an environment where people aren’t afraid of voicing a ‘bad’ idea (there’s no such thing) and for creativity to flourish you need to create anonymity and collaboration.

This is how it works:

  1. Book a time in the participants diary. 20-30 minutes is plenty.
  2. Send them a link to a shared document set to public (template below)
  3. Populate the sheet with a couple of ideas of your own
  4. Watch those ideas and others develop into something magical.

brainstorming template

The document is simple. Column 1 has the core idea, Column 2 an improvement or combination of another idea. If it makes it to Column 3 you’ve made a decision.

You can use this to get ideas for blog posts, marketing campaign, A/B tests – pretty much anything.

Here’s the template. Save A Copy to your own Google Drive.

Now you’ve got a faster more effective way to come up with ideas and grow your business.

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