Meagan Kelly Content Strategist


culture - industry

Leading an Effective Creative Brainstorm with Your Team

Running a creative brainstorm is no small task. It’s the starting point for your entire project. A strong brainstorm can lead to a strong result. A weak brainstorm can lead to…well, you get the idea.

At Alphabet®, we’ve learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to brainstorming, which help our team stay motivated and confident. Here are some guidelines you might find useful when leading your next brainstorm.

Have a moderator. 
A brainstorm should be casual, but that doesn’t mean unstructured. We use a moderator to keep everyone on task without stifling the back-and-forth that often spawns great ideas. A moderator can help push ideas further and get the most from everyone in the room. Oh, and they should be in charge of taking the notes, too – nothing’s worse than ending a brainstorm with everyone assuming someone else was keeping track!

Establish context and guidelines. 
What do we need? What’s not going to fly? Where will this be seen? Whoever is leading the brainstorm should send a brief or some general context and guidelines to everyone involved at least three days in advance. You want people to start thinking about ideas ahead of time so the juices flow when the meeting rolls around. Bring these guidelines to the meeting to ensure everyone’s staying on target. Having an open creative discussion is key when brainstorming, but we can all agree they have a tendency to veer off track. Establishing parameters focuses creativity in the right direction. 

Know that there are no bad ideas.
Okay, maybe there are some bad ideas. But a brainstorm isn’t about discerning the good from the bad; it’s just about getting every idea on a page, whiteboard, or Zoom chat. You want everyone in a brainstorm to feel like they have free reign to say whatever pops into their head. There’s no judgement, no strange looks. Oftentimes, our brains can cling to an idea without letting it go until we’ve vocalized it. Encouraging the free-flow of ideas can help your team clear their heads and make space for new thinking.

Tip: a fun, productive exercise can be to dedicate 5-10 minutes of a brainstorm to wild ideas. It’ll perk up the energy in the room, free up headspace, and potentially spark an idea elsewhere.

Think about the psychology of creativity. 
Alphabet® isn’t a psychology practice, but we do find value in looking at why and how people think. Everyone has creative biases, so we do what we can to pick those apart and approach every project with neutral minds. For yourself, try to find existing patterns of recognition and storytelling to give people something to latch onto. How can you make something familiar and turn it into something new, but still keep it familiar enough that people will connect with it?

Encourage and foster conversation. 
Group settings can be overwhelming for some. Introverts, people with different skill sets, or newer employees may find it hard to speak up in a room (physical or virtual). Encouraging conversation doesn’t mean forcing people to talk; it means keeping the energy high and creating the right environment for people to want to participate. Encouragement doesn’t have to be singling people out, either; it can mean talking about every idea that’s shared so that others know their voices will be heard. 

To help with participation, open a shared Google Doc and ask people to contribute before the meeting. Then, speak to those contributions during the official brainstorm. The less-inclined will have an opportunity to share their two cents without fear of judgement, which in turn will make them more open to participating.

A big part of leading a creative brainstorm is just knowing how your team works. As the leader, you need to be perceptive to your employees’ mood and know when to motivate, pivot, and assist as needed.

At Alphabet®, we love bringing unique minds together to create new ideas. If you want to see what we can do, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help with your creative, digital, and strategic needs.