Brainstorming Part 1b – The Rules of Engagement

The five rules I laid out for my recent brainstorming session…

Slide05From TED conferences to strategy planning, the best conversations and the biggest ideas are often born outside the meeting rooms. Random, unscripted discussions allow people to connect the dots in totally new ways. Wherever possible, I try to schedule in long breaks and relaxed meals.


Slide06The original rule of brainstorming: encourage everyone to share ideas, no matter how crazy. When you have managers and executives in the room, this rule is particularly important — people tend to become quiet when their bosses are sitting next to them.

(I really like IBM’s use of the term “Jam Session” for brainstorming)


Slide07One of my favorite truisms in business, especially for strategy setting, is to shift the thinking away from what to do towards what not to do. Focusing on what not to do will quickly surface the sacred cows and elephants in the room.


Slide08The fact is that brainstorming rarely works in one-hour meetings or teleconference calls. Complete immersion, particularly over a day or two, saturates everyone’s thinking with the topic at hand. Trust builds between the team members. Crazy ideas get surfaced in between sessions. And people don’t get distracted as much with their “real lives”.


Slide09The funny thing about creativity is that it is hard to do when your team members are uptight and uncomfortable. Humor is a great way to break down barriers and build trust. Physically moving around keeps people actively engaged and wide awake.


Here are all the parts in my brainstorming series: Part 1: Rules of Engagement, Part 1B: Five Rules, Part 2: Organizing CreativityPart 3: Rev up the Creativity Engine and Part 4: Tools and Techniques.

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