7 Ways to Facilitate a Successful Brainstorm

It’s 8:30am. Smells of coffee and catered breakfast fill the room as the team files into the Think Tank for another ideation session at Upstream. There is a lot of chatter (dogs included) as excitement builds for the day ahead. Conversations vary from breakfast reviews, to current bingeworthy TV series, to strategy for the upcoming session. Some have worked together for years; others are meeting for the first time. The goal? Bring product benefits to life through visualization, creativity and curiosity. 

Let’s be honest with ourselves – not all of us have that overwhelming feeling of excitement when we see the words “Ideation Session” on our calendars. It can be daunting, knowing the consequences of a poorly executed session. Varying personalities and distractions can alter the progression of brainstorming in its entirety.  Schedules are tight and output is vital to success. Plus, not all attendees are extroverts, so contributing might not be easy for them.

The question then becomes: “How do you set the tone for the day, and what rules can help maximize effectiveness throughout the session?” “How can we illuminate the unseen?” 

Our team of creatives, strategists and scientists weigh in.

Inspiration is Key. 
Innovation is challenging. These workshops are meant to bring cross-functional teams together in a unique learning space. To promote creative dialogue, we encourage inspiration at the beginning. What’s an example of something that sparks your creative thought process? How do you get your creative juices flowing? Whether this is homework that participants are bringing into the session, or inspiring work relative to the project, it’s important to bring the group together at the start of the session to gather focus. Those conversations and thoughts not related to the project should shift at the start so that the team goes into the workshop with the right mindset. 


Positive Vibes Only.  
It’s important to create an environment where all ideas are welcomed. Negativity deters the creative thought process and may hinder participants from expressing ideas, thus affecting output. Showing excitement as others share their thoughts encourages everyone to keep the creative juices flowing! A solution? Music! Pop. Coffeehouse. Chill Hits. You name it. It’s just one thing we do to keep up the energy in the room. 


Wild & Agile Ideas.
Remember, the team’s ultimate goal here is to make the unreal real! No idea is a bad idea in these types of exercises.  Our team is there to drive those conversations and provide input from all angles of the product development experience. Who knows? That crazy idea might be a breakthrough concept. And remember – quantity over quality here. Our default speed is fast. 


Engage the Entire Entourage.
It’s easy to be distracted by texts, calls, emails. These sessions take time, so it’s fair if someone needs to step out to tend to other business. The key here is to maximize involvement as much as possible to boost output. With various talents in the room, each individual brings a unique perspective. More brainpower! Less phones/computers! 


Builds, Builds, Builds.
At Upstream, the foundation of our work is in story integration. As the team learns more about the product and ideation is in full swing, we encourage further builds to transform insight to full concept. 


Put it on Paper.
Sketching, illustrating, notetaking. All important steps to bring visions to life. By adding a dedicated Upstream illustrator and other members of our creative team to each group, we are able to efficiently bring ideas from conversation to visualization. We pride ourselves in bringing possibilities to life!  


Time is of the Essence.
Typically, these sessions are planned out with little time to waste. Use your break times and brainstorming time effectively. If you need to make a call, try to wait until the next break so no ideation time is wasted. Encourage table leaders to keep everyone on track and respect the schedule for the day! Tess, our amazing Office Manager, always makes sure to have snacks and coffee readily available throughout our sessions so no one goes hungry! These breaks are perfect chances to refuel and reset. Not a coffee person? Grab an iced tea, LaCroix, Diet Coke, you name it, we have it all. 


So, the next time you are challenged with planning or attending a session, keep these in mind! And remember, everyone has the same goal! Bring clearer understanding to a complex world.