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The perfect (brain)storm

You can’t force creativity – but you can give it a gentle nudge. Bryan Jones on five things that add up to a great brainstorm.

I worked for a number of years as a freelance, often grafting away at a desk in the corner of a bedroom with only Jazz FM for company.

OK, some of the time I really loved it. Working on your own from home has its advantages. No stress-inducing commute to work, you’re always around when the postman/woman delivers a parcel, you can work in your slippers and pajamas, and no-one pinches your last Chocolate Hobnob.

But when it comes to creativity, working alone can put the squeeze on being inventive and original. It can be tough when you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off.

Here at 44 Communications, there’s a uniquely talented team ready to talk through concepts, give positive feedback and inspire creative thought – and to tell you when you are meandering down a long, dark, unpromising tunnel.

I know that creativity can flourish in solitude, and that people can be at their most inventive when they are alone. But we’re in a fast-moving environment – there’s no time to wait for inspiration to strike. You need a little nudge.

So let’s hear a little love for the often-derided ‘brainstorm’. Mwah, mwah.

I find getting a group of people together to shake down on an idea really stimulating. There’s a social element to it too, helping with team bonding and ensuring people feel they have made a contribution. A successful brainstorm session can really add to the positive energy around an office.

Here are five things that I find add up to a great brainstorm:

1) Mix it up

It really helps to have a good mix of people. At 44, we’ll include people with a design background, from project management, the digital arena, and there are some with tabloid newspaper writing and editing experience. Others are new to working in communications. The wider the mix, the wider the range of ideas. It also helps the flow and quality of ideas to have diversity when it comes to things like age, sex and personality type.

2) Viva la difference

I enjoy seeing how different people approach sessions in different ways.

Often it’s the same people who kick things off. They confidently come forward with a handful of brilliant ideas apparently fully-formed and ready to go – which, frankly, I feel is cheating. My brain doesn’t work that quickly.

Others listen quietly for a while. You can hear the cogs ticking over as they absorb things, filter and then respond.

Making room for the different ways people react to the meeting is vital.

3) There really are no bad ideas

Some will disagree, but I like to come at brainstorms from the angle that there’s no such thing as ‘stupid’. “I don’t know if this is relevant, but…” is a phrase you often hear. Don’t let those ideas go by – encourage people to air them, however woolly they may seem.

As a real-life example, the solution to communicating the issues around bribery and corruption might not be underpants with ‘bribery’ on the front and ‘corruption’ on the rear – but that thought led on to the germ of something actually useable during one 44 brainstorm.

Write all the thoughts down – sometimes a completely new and exciting concept will emerge way into the session when all ideas seemed exhausted.

4) Be unprepared

If you’re in charge, it’s tempting to send out lots of information beforehand detailing what the brainstorm will be about. I reckon that can be a bad tactic. Just send out a brief note instead.

You risk cramping creativity if people come along too prepared for a brainstorm. Getting fixated about ideas you’ve been mulling over for hours can mean you close off your brain to other thoughts.

5) Cut and run

Don’t spend too long talking about one person’s concept. Grab the idea, develop it for a couple of minutes, write it down and move on.

There’s nothing worse than being in a brainstorm with a great idea in your head listening to someone wobble on about their brilliant thought. Spend too long on one person’s idea and you risk stifling others.

It’s worth remembering too that you should use brainstorming to tackle a particular problem. Focus on something specific, rather than a range of topics, and you’re more likely to get a good result.

And if you’re struggling to come up with creative ideas and concepts, give us a call at 01926 888776 – or invite us in to run a brainstorm with you.

We’ll bring our bribery and corruption underpants if you like.

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