By Lisa Hester, Senior Account Manager

I’ve often said when sitting down for a project, “OK, time to get creative…starting now!” But how do you simply flip on the “creative switch” to let the good ideas flow? How do you fill that blank page with breathtaking ideas on cue?…especially when you’re just not in that creative mood.

There’s always a brainstorming session, where you draw upon the creative energy of a team to come up with some winning ideas. For some age groups, sharing ideas informally is part of their regular work routine. And that should be welcomed and encouraged. But sometimes, for strategy-building and formulating workable tactics, the formal brainstorming sessions is needed. Of course, these type of brainstorming sessions can be a gift or a curse. How do you turn brainstorming into that productive magic you need?

Here are a few tips to help get started in the right direction.

  • Start smart…If you’re going to call a brainstorming session, make sure all the participants have the necessary background on the project well in advance so that they can come well prepared.
  • Set the mood….Pick a comfortable location where everyone is at ease. Make sure it’s isolated enough to limit distractions. Going somewhere outside of the office can be a real brain-opener. And yes, “brain food,” i.e. snacks, are always a good idea.
  • Pick the right leader… Select someone who will guide the group and keep them on track but not stifle ideas. Someone who can let the group stray down a path that actually is a productive one and reel them back in when they move away from the target.
  • Open the session with a fun story, visual or game….Something whimsical to get the group excited or stimulated. Something to take their minds from the work they just left at their desk and get them interested in the session at hand.
  • Then, turn the attention to the goal…Make sure you state clearly the purpose of the brainstorming session and what you hope the group will accomplish in the end. Ask questions, if needed, to make sure everyone is starting on the same page and understands the goal.
  • Let the brainstorming begin. Kick it off with an open-ended question or a thought, a possibility, an idea. Then let others jump in. There’s no idea to small and no wrong answers. Capture all that is said. As break-through ideas that the group deems exceptional are brought up, make note. Then, at a point before the session ends, or if there is a lull in the session, go back to that idea and let the group dig deeper. No need to wordsmith during the brainstorming session. That can be done afterward.

After the brainstorming session, make sure you follow up with all participants. Let them in on formalizing the strategies, goals, suggestions…the outcomes of the brainstorming session. Or at lease share with them the final work product. There’s nothing worse than bringing a group together to pick their brain on a topic, collect their ideas, then never let them know what happened next.