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Tips for running enviable creative meetings

Written by: on  March 9, 2011

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 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.

5 tips for running effective brainstorm sessions

  1. Use an energiser /icebreaker exercise at the start to get people into creative mode e.g. select something from a ‘lucky dip’ and think how it relates to the topic to be discussed
  2. Describe the topic to be discussed as a question as it helps open the mind and allows the person running the session to bring it back if focus is being lost e.g. ‘How can we get maximum success for X event?’
  3. Asking the right questions is as important as offering thoughts and suggestions; prepare a few questions that may add a different perspective e.g. ‘what is our best/worst case scenario?’ or ‘what do the stats and facts suggest?’ or ‘how will X feel  about this decision?’ (De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats is a great model for this )
  4. Post-it notes are a great way to get thoughts and ideas out from individual/pairs onto the flip/board.  These can then be ‘clustered’ into similar areas, which then provides sub-headings to then add detail
  5. If creative juices seem to be getting stuck, then get the group to think about the topic from a ‘future history’ frame of mind e.g. ‘imagine the event has already happened and it was the most successful one ever. What happened that made it so?’  This directs everyone to think beyond any problems or boundaries as there is a presupposition it will work…we just now need to figure out how!

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



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