How brands can make their content brainstorms more effective
As is the case with many meetings, the success of your content brainstorm is partially determined before the session even begins.
The way that you prepare for and run your brainstorms not only impacts how many ideas can be generated, but it also impacts your team’s willingness to contribute in the meeting and—ultimately—the quality of the content ideas that you all come up with.
Here are a few of the key things you can do as a brainstorm leader to give you the best chance at success when you next bring your team together to generate content ideas for your brand.
Set a brainstorm goal and clearly articulate it
Some of the most frustrating brainstorms are those where the goal is not clear or agreed upon. It’s difficult to get your team to the destination if you’re not even sure where you’re trying to go, or if you’re all headed in different directions.
Prior to scheduling a brainstorm, take the time to clearly define the goal of the session: What is the desired outcome and how will you know that the brainstorm has been successful?
Collect and share relevant information
As part of brainstorm prep, you’ll also want to collect any additional details, resources, or limitations, so that the goal can be set in the proper context. What other information does the team need to be able to achieve the desired outcome?
- Business goals
- Available budget
- Timing or deadlines
- “Must Have” list
- “No Go” list
- Links to past/similar work
Allow time for individual prep and thinking
Some studies have shown that the best ideas come from brainstorms where individual contributors have time to think independently before coming together for a shared discussion.
Share the brainstorm goal and any relevant context with your team as soon as possible—either via a calendar invite or a more formal communication—to allow them time to process before you meet.
Protect attendees’ psychological safety
It’s important for every member of the team to feel psychologically safe: comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas with the group. To ensure creativity is encouraged and not squashed, anticipate and plan to thwart these two common brainstorm saboteurs:
1. Conversation domination
When one or more people dominate the conversation, preventing others from contributing.
What you can do:
Establish a set speaking order, or speaking time limits. Remind the team to wait for colleagues to finish before chiming in. Explicitly ask quieter members of the team for their opinion.
2. Fear of rejection
When ideas are routinely met with criticism or negativity, causing people to self-censor or choose not to participate.
What you can do:
Remind the team that this is not a competition, some of the best ideas are combinations of other ideas. Ask the team to add to and build upon ideas rather than shoot them down. Encourage questions in response to ideas, instead of critical statements. (that is, “Have you thought about how we’ll distribute that?” vs “Nobody will find that.”)
Aim for quantity over quality (to start)
People are often hesitant to share ideas if they haven’t figured out every detail yet, so make it clear that you start the brainstorm by generating as many ideas as possible, even if they aren’t exactly right or fully formed.
Halfway through, shift the focus to sorting and combining the idea fragments until you end up with the winning idea. This approach has the added bonus of helping with psychological safety, too, as it encourages the team to build upon others’ ideas rather than shooting them down.
Keep a “not right now” file
There are bound to be lots of ideas or idea-fragments discussed in a brainstorm that may not be right for this specific challenge, but that could be a great fit for some future use cases. Instead of trying to keep them all in your head, log ideas like these into a “not right now” file. A shared document—Google Doc, Evernote, or similar—works great for this purpose, allowing anyone on the team to easily search the document for relevant ideas in the future.
Close your brainstorm outright
This one’s not unique to content brainstorms: end with a recap of what was decided and list any next steps along with the person taking ownership of it.
With adequate preparation, clear rules of engagement, and a plan of action, your next content idea brainstorming session can be your most productive yet.