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3 rules for an effective creative brainstorm

Brainstorming. What an inspiring word! Some people think that it’s a kind of secret meeting where the members are using magical formulas to find new concepts and ideas.

Others will say that participants are just closing the door to chill and have fun, playing around with the stupid ideas they have.

In a certain way, everybody’s right. Let me share with you my experience of brainstorming sessions through few tips I use during each meeting.

Rule 1: Understand the brief.

Firstly, there’s no brainstorm without a brief. One of the most important skills for creatives is listening. You should never hesitate to take notes, ask stupid questions, or ask for clarification on something that wasn’t clear the first time.

If you want to avoid straying off topic, make sure you have all the information. A massive help is to do some research before the session. Google is your friend and Wikipedia doesn’t bite.

Rule 2: Let everybody express themselves.

When the brainstorming session is coming, you must accept that everybody can have THE idea. The goal of the creative director is to detect it and let it grow. There’s no place for arrogance or ego. It’s a team effort.

Once you have the brief nailed down, it’s time to unleash your brains and let the ideas flow. Most products remind you of things, so you can take a story from your childhood or be inspired by a movie, a song, a book or even a joke.

Vocalising even a bizarre thought is often the first step towards a solid creative idea, so you must feel free to say the stupidest things out loud.

Rule 3: Decide which ideas answer the brief.

People can desperately try to fit a square peg in a round hole, but just because their idea seems good, it doesn’t mean it’s right for this project. So every brainstorm needs two guardians: The devil’s advocate and the scribe.

The devil’s advocate questions the potential of each idea according to the brief, asking questions like: Is the tone correct? Is the message relevant? Does the idea fit with the target? If the answer is no, then you must accept that it’s not the right idea for this project.

To keep the session constructive, the scribe takes notes of everything during the brainstorm so that nothing is forgotten, then prepares a final report based on the devil’s advocate’s judgement. The real idea often appears in this report.

Remember that brainstorming is just the first concrete step of the creative process. And most of the time, the final product is far from this session. The human brain is not static. Ideas are liquid, they evolve, move, and change colours.

Brainstorming is like a map, where you choose a path to get from A to B. Rousseau wrote: “I’m walking to see where my feet bring me.” This is exactly the essence of the brainstorm.

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