How to lead a brainstorm l Digiday

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you're probably saying to yourselves

self I wish we had this a few days ago

but like any presentation I know I am

learning a lot and you'll take away and

I have a feeling you'll do quite a bit

more brainstorming in your careers

so I come from an agency called Rumble

Fox and we are very much not

about what a brand says but about what

it does and so what we try to create our

brand building experiences that either

create a service that make you laugh

that make you want to pass something

around and that maybe is a little bit of

fun so show me don't tell me is our

mantra and we create brainstorm sessions

around this how do you create something

that something somebody wants to use

that somebody wants to share so our

agency is built around this we we have

what we call t-shaped folks maybe M

shaped folks that can stretch and flex

across disciplines so we have in our

brain storms people who are strategic

but also creative who understand

technology and who all come up with

these incredible brand building

experiences and you've heard a little

bit about creating something new when it

comes to innovation we also like to

think not just that it's new but that

increases value and is the thing that

the teams are coming up with are they

actually doing something for the brand

but most of all are they doing something

for the end consumer and so that really

is if I would say please take away one

thing is that that really is what

innovation is about so I am quite out of

the younger generation base

and I've been around the block in a nice


and I've been to a few of these agencies

and have led brain storms and a few of

these agencies and also companies so I

worked quite a few number of years at


at huge and also a company called

MakerBot and is very much a hacking

making kind of culture and so what we do

is at these agencies and at these

companies is try to come up with brain

storms that are more like hackathons how

many of you guys have been to a

hackathon okay very few but it's this

notion of people think that they can't

do this and I'm here to tell you that

you should start to think about brain

storms as if you're doing a hackathon

and also to give you ease and permission

to understand that you guys can do this

it's not about how many Red Bulls do you

chug it's not about are you a

mouth-breather it's about understanding

how to brainstorm and how to make things

so this is the hacker kind of culture

and mantra and again if please take this

away with you when you start to leave

brain storms or even participate it's

not about being perfect I come from a

digital agency so the notion of

Perpetual beta is very much a part of

our ethos move fast and break things I

do not believe that a strategist should

be thinking through what is that guiding

principle for weeks upon weeks you

should really just get down to it stay

focused and keep chipping and what would

you do if you weren't afraid and I think

that is probably the biggest thing is

don't be afraid say something if people

say oh I'm not sure that's okay that's

the worst that can happen

so when it comes to creating a

brainstorming team and if you're leading

this think of it

put everyone in a room or even in

another setting but multidisciplinary I

think is very key you want someone with

different points of view you don't want

everyone to look like yourselves think

like yourselves and brainstorm like

yourselves fast fast fast right you're

trying to come up with a lot of ideas as

quickly as possible and in fact the

first day or the first few hours should

really be about how many things can we

put on a white board so quantity which

then leads to quality so you know

embrace those false starts half ideas

and notions if someone says something

make sure that the team takes that

little nugget and expands on it and

you're thinking again about what it does

not just what it says so about that

service it's about utility fun and

emotion so whoever's using the thing

that you're brainstorming about are they

is it is it fulfilling a need or a want

and then also if you're gonna create

things at the end of the day to showcase

what you're thinking about don't think

you have to understand how to code you

don't have to know how to make things

like the folks that I worked with that

MakerBot it's not about engineers it's

about coming up and expressing your idea

in a way that conveys what you're trying

to do so here are a few steps on how to

lead a brainstorm so the first one is

focus focus focus so it's not like this

it's like this so if if the exercise is

about we have wheels and we want to take

you somewhere and this is the notion

again of Perpetual beta or MVP it's

about creating things and stages that

get to the final result as opposed to

only waiting for the final result

so giving gentle guidance is step two I

no idea was mentioned as as a brands was

an agency that really encourages great

thinking and I think they have a set of

rules and cards that I would really

encourage you all to download and find

but the notion of deferring judgment

encouraging wild ideas which I'll talk

about building on the ideas of others

but before you start you want to make

sure that everyone's clear that it's not

about right or wrong and it's not about

being the best in the room it's about

you're creating something that you want

to have impact in the marketplace so

collaboration collaboration is what I

would call the necessary ingredient but

the problem is that everyone talks about

collaboration but what does it mean it's

what's called a weasel word so I bet

everyone has had different collaborative

experiences and moments in their lives

and when you ask each person from each

table what does collaboration mean to

them they might have a different

definition I'm here to tell you what I

think collaboration is and how you can

facilitate that when you're leading a

brainstorm so using that weasel how many

have seen this

it's the weasel with the woodpecker but

what was beautiful is that here's a

photo that was passed along again and

again and then someone made it better


they added they added on and it brought

a smile and labs but then they added

even more right so the notion of

collaboration just being about people

working together it's about in my mind

and not but so someone puts an idea out

there then your rule is the leader of a

brainstorm is

how can you this is a very technical

term judge it and make it even better so

how do you that to me is what your role

is as a facilitator or a leader of our

brainstorm is helping people build on

the ideas of others to make it better

step 4

critique not criticism this is something

that I think only time will improve for

people in the room but it's I've seen

this image the sandwich technique about

giving negative feedback have everything

has anyone seen this I call on

this because I think people know that

you're gearing to give them bad feedback

when you try to sandwich oh you look

nice today

by the way that idea sucks oh you look

nice today I mean it's very obvious so I

think what the point is is about giving

good feedback so when you hear an idea

that you think isn't the greatest don't

use the sandwich technique please

instead offering words that get to an

improvement of that idea

not the judgement of the idea right and

as a leader you're setting the tone for

the rest of the team to also add on to

that idea to make it better right be

honest so I think what happens a lot of

times with criticism verse being a

little bit people try to be nice and

they don't get to the point so people

don't know if their idea is bad or good

be honest about what you're thinking and

feeling but with those words of how to

improve it again building on the idea

which I mentioned before being specific

and helping and not squashing so again

this is your facilitating critique in in

that brainstorm session

it's not about criticism step 5 which is

the big one is thinking big and that is

your your role as leader of a brainstorm

so you want people to think as big as

possible and you want to remove the

barriers so this might sound familiar I

know on the briefs that you guys worked

on there was a budget and for some of

the teams for the briefs there would be

some legal issues those are the things

that you want as a leader to say we

understand that they're there but put it

away because it might get in the way of

thinking big so try to take those

obstacles away try to if if the team

itself is starting to say but what about

this but what about this we can't do it

because of this your job is to say don't

enough don't worry because then you can

you can rein it in and make those wild

ideas a little bit better so know your

purpose as I mentioned you have wheels

that's who you are as a brand and you

want to create a vehicle to get someone

from point A to point B if you know that

that's a great place to start don't rein

it in yet encourage that wildness

because sometimes those wild ideas

create amazing things build upon and

listen don't squash real communication

so share a point of view don't hide it

in a sandwich but also give constructive

critique and think big and wild and go

for quantity thank you

that's great and we are a little under

so if we have a couple minutes if anyone

has any questions hi so one of my

questions is I work in a satellite

office and my creative team is in a

different state so do you have any tips

for leading a brainstorm when your

remote yeah I think there's a lot of

great tools out there to you know

obviously face to face and being in a

meeting like we we have been doing for

the past few days is wonderful but I

know my company uses slack and we have a

lot of folks who are from all over the


and we collaborate that way but there

are other tools to do that and you know

somebody submits something I don't know

if you guys are familiar with slack but

and this is not because I'm getting any

money from so you know but the notion of

you put something out there and then

people like a chain and I think that's a

really nice way to do it digitally today

runs on slack okay question over here

Megan have you heard the jonah lehrer

book the one that he was subsequently

busted for plagiarizing he has the whole

chat it's it's too bad because there's a

whole chapter on brainstorming where he

sort of bunks a lot of the myths of the

way it works actually

it's worth reading even though he's sort

of yeah I think that their heart used to

talk about with the critique versus

criticism I think that's a huge thing

I've noticed especially I mean I've had

a background in architecture so like

that was the key he was like you had to

be critical but in a constructive way

and like getting into media it's like

you see a lot of young 22 year olds that

aren't used to having to be like they

play nice

too much almost like especially in

certain scenarios so do you have tease

for like really pushing people to get

out of that like you know like you think

you did a great job but you know like

you don't have to do that like how do

you get people to really understand and

if you have tips for how to push people

why you think again as a leader then you

can you can start to pose the questions

around the room for the people who are

brainstorming to get to those nuggets

that you want so it's all in the

question so it might be as simple as do

you think this is something that this

end consumer would use what could we do

to improve it and start to get to those

questions that lead to more of that

critique and I think as a leader you

want to shut down the either the really

general I don't like this or this sucks

or the oh this is nice and which is not

helpful either so I think as the leader

you can start to say well would someone

use this how might they how might it be

a better fit for for what our goals are

I think that's unfortunately all we have

time for that was great go team yellow

we're going to