A creative director walks into a meeting room (sounds like a joke, doesn't it?).

He walks up to the white board, grabs a dry erase marker from the shelf, and says, "Who's got an idea?"

One of the creatives, the one wearing a vest over a corduroy shirt looking all "indie," throws out an idea.

Then the girl wearing a white blouse tucked into a black pencil skirt.

Then another, and another.

And all the while, the creative director is scribbling all over the board, writing all these ideas down, all the ones that people are throwing out there -- because they're "brainstorming."

After 15 or 20 minutes, he stops. Steps back. Looks at the board.

It's a garbled mess. A web of sporadic thoughts.

The rest of the room looks at it, proud. Proud of all their brainstorming.

The creative director nods, walks over, reaches for the eraser, and just before wiping away the entire thing, he says, "Excellent. Now we can start coming up with good ideas."

This is what so many teams get wrong about brainstorming.

Brainstorming is not a free-for-all breakout session where anything and everything goes. You know the saying, "No idea is a bad idea?"

It's false.

Actually, there are a lot of bad ideas. Really bad ideas.

If you're working with a client, and that client wants to target, say, buyers for medical devices at hospitals, how is a campaign on social media asking users to submit content going to solve that problem?

It's not. And yet, during a brainstorming session, it's still thrown out there as a viable option.

What a brainstorming session should be is a place to challenge the ideas that have already been vetted. Here you have your entire team (or a specialty team) sitting around a table -- and if you do the math, that's an expensive table. Each person there is being paid X, and as they sit there chatting about ideas, their time is costing you (or the company) Y. So how, then, is it a logical spend of money for that time to be spent getting all the bad ideas out first?

What needs to happen: Each person should have gone through this process on their own already. They should have their own piece of paper with their own garbled mess of ideas, distilled down to the best two or three. So by the time you sit everyone around a table together to "brainstorm," what you're really doing is debating and picking apart the good stuff.

That's the real value.

You're not there to brainstorm.

You're there to debate each other's best ideas, seeing which ones survive and win out in the end.

Published on: Dec 14, 2016
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