Guidelines for Making Your Brainstorming Session More Effective

This is my second post on an innovation presentation that I recently attended by Kathie Thomas of Fleishman Hillard at the PRSA St. Louis monthly luncheon.

Use these brainstorming guidelines so your session won't turn into an episode of The Office.Although Thomas presented many great ideas, one of the takeaways I enjoyed most was the brainstrorming guidelines. We’ve all been a part of such ridiculous brainstorming sessions at work that you feel like you are stuck in an episode of The Office. These tips help participants toss away the crossword puzzles and really accomplish something productive.

Start by working alone.
Why did I never think of this before? Write all your good ideas down first so you can walk into the meeting feeling good. (Plus, it’ll give you a few minutes to check out everyone’s outfits.)

Put ideas on sticky notes.
This method can stop the painfully long process of reading out loud all of your ideas, plus it enables you to share your idea without getting shot down. Sticky notes can then be stuck to a flipchart and easily reorganized as the creative vibe takes off.

Make ideas specific and actionable, not general.
When you do speak your ideas, share examples of how your could be implemented, instead of making general statements like “improve ….”

Number all ideas.
This helps you keep the ideas in order, plus you can set a goal for the number of ideas you’d like to achieve. This brings something measurable to the meeting, plus it helps stimulate some competition and energy. According to Thomas: a good brainstorm session generates 100 ideas in one hour!

Avoid judging ideas when discussing.
AMEN! As an outspoken participant in these types of meetings, I would be worn out with the negativity produced by all those who chose to watch and judge rather than participate. Thomas says avoid evaluating ideas and don’t discuss the merits of an idea or express approval or disapproval. Strive for quantity instead of quality at this stage in the process.

Build on others’ ideas.
Add to an idea to make it bigger, smaller or merge it with another idea. You can also make an idea more actionable or look at it from another perspective. Just don’t criticize it.

Go crazy with your ideas.
With this safe envionment, you can be vulnerable. Making a wild idea more mainstream is easier than making a boring idea interesting.

These tips would make a brainstorming session that I would enjoy participating in!


Sonia is the marketing strategist & word geek for NeuConcept.