In the pursuit of quality content, the picture that comes to mind when the term “brain dump” is heard is likely something pertaining to a hazardous construction zone filled with muck and debris; however, the imagery that best exemplifies this picture is sand going through a sieve. A hefty bucket full of beach slides through the sieve. Every idea, good and bad, is explored.
Set the Stage
Before you even begin brainstorming with others, consider your colleagues. Find out how each individual likes to work and allow them to work in a scene conducive to their creative process. Some people need pin drop silence while others generate their best work amidst a cacophony of explosive drum and guitar. Some people feel better supported at a coffee house where they know they can get their caffeine fix at the slightest emergence of writer’s block.
Some people need to walk to think. Some people need to flesh out ideas aloud. Creativity is nebulous and free flowing. The environment wherein one goes to create should lack restriction as well. Give your team the creative space they need to thrive.
I know it’s 2017. I know collaboration is “so in” right now, but it has a time and a place in the brainstorming process. Steering away from a collaborative sharing of ideas in the beginning stages of idea generating will help fight the group’s potential to fall into group thinking. Harvard Business review warns that when working in groups, often times consensus rather than collaboration emerges. Don’t stifle creativity right out of the gate by immediately sharing ideas.
Once your team has had the opportunity to mull over ideas independently, it is time for collaboration to grab the mic. Again, consider the needs of your team before choosing a collaboration location. Regardless of your location, ensure that your venue has some place to display ideas visually whether it be a whiteboard, projector, or TV screen. Many people are visual processors, and keeping a running list of ideas will allow them to digest each concept better.
Have a plan in place for documenting ideas as they occur and for collecting ideas after the brainstorming session ends. Allow your team a platform to continue to add ideas too long after your meeting has concluded. You could do this through a Google doc, Slack chat, or simple email. However you go about staying connected, make sure your team feels encouraged to continue the conversation and pursue new ideas.
Oracy is the ability to communicate verbally with intention. Considering one’s intentions is most essential when pitching an idea; however, intentionally communicating while giving feedback is also extremely valuable. During the collaboration process of brainstorming there is the potential for a few different negative outcomes: a colleague might withhold additional ideas because his first one was shot down swiftly, a colleague might lack the ability to translate his thoughts to others, or a colleague might feel insecure in his idea after hearing a coworker spout off their ingenious proposal.
If each of these people remains silent, potential ideas, approaches, creativity, and ultimately revenue also disappear. Combat this problem by creating a culture that fosters respect. Set parameters before brainstorming even begins to ensure colleagues are supportive rather than dismissive of one another’s ideas. Craft dialogue stems that lead to productive conversation. Have an expectation that everyone will share their ideas, and actively question each member’s responses to ensure that idea has been sufficiently analyzed.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Why in the world would I allow a bad idea to reach a consideration stage?” Well, some bad ideas can actually turn out to be phenomenal once reframed. Post-it Notes were actually a failed attempt at creating an intense adhesive. Dr. Spencer Silver the 3M scientist who created the product was able to see its potential worth outside of its intended usage, so he reframed, remarketed, and revolutionized note taking.
Considering bad ideas, especially among multiple experts in your field has the potential to breed solutions. Ask a colleague to give you a second opinion on an idea. Your idea might target a buyer you hadn’t considered. It might need the support of being coupled with another idea, but together they soar. It might serve a different purpose altogether, but the worst thing you can do is to let an idea die before even attempting to give it life.
When a group acknowledges the value of a comfortable work environment, offers time for independent thinking, respects one another’s contributions, and is willing to entertain ALL ideas, it is then that treasures will emerge amidst the sand in the form of valuable content ideas.