I get asked a lot about how to run effective creative meetings or brainstorms (forgive the archaic term, I struggle to engage with the phrase ‘thought shower’). My first piece of advice would be to remember that creative thinking is a journey and not a destination. As a participant, to effectively contribute to a brainstorm we need to remove any fear that each suggestion has to be a fully-formed idea. The pressure of perfection kills our confidence to be creative.
Consider the brainstorm to be like the process of making a cake: the role of each participant is to add their raw ingredients to the mix, in the form of ideas or stimulating questions, for the group to then consider, mix up and bake together as a collective.
It is very rare that a single idea is offered and taken on board with no additions or variations, so expect your ‘raw ingredient’ to be bashed, mashed and stirred around a bit. See this is a vital part of the process, rather than a criticism of your idea. Consider it your duty to the good of the debate to suggest a raw ingredient that you feel may add value. Nerves at a brainstorm are inherently selfish, think what your team/project could be missing out on!
If you are asked to run a creative meeting, then here are some practical ideas for maximising the output of your valuable time. As Jason Fried eloquently suggests in his TED speech http://bit.ly/hxVDLF a 2 hour meeting with 6 people is actually a 12 hour meeting. This encourages a useful discipline for the group to ensure there is a good return on that 12 hour investment.
And remember, the more energy in the room, the more ideas will flow, so enjoy it and set a clear timeframe so it doesn’t get sluggish