Your Brainstorming Fears May Be Myths

December 17, 2018

Some of the most exciting parts of agency life come in the ideating and planning phases. Whether it’s new business or new projects with current clients, there’s something refreshing about the beginning stages of ideation: the no-bounds spit-balling, brainstorming when anything is possible. However, it can also be some of the most maddening and frustrating stage if you don’t do it right.

As we wrap up the year and head into 2019, there has been a ton of planning and brainstorming within the Fast Horse walls. And as an ever-growing and shifting place, we’re encouraged to try new ways of developing ideas and discussing different processes to ensure people are properly briefed and getting those creative juices flowing.

This past month, I’ve been reading up on different strategies for getting best ideas to bubble up to the surface, and many have helped me shift my perspective about some of the “scary” parts of brainstorming. Turns out many of my common “brainstorming fears” may actually be strengths of the process if you look at it the right way.

Brainstorming Fear #1: Silence

While the quiet moments of brainstorming can feel awkward, they can help make people more comfortable.

Silence creates tension for people, and that’s a good thing. Eventually, someone will break the silence and blurt out an idea that they were afraid was bad or stupid. Often those ideas can be the best. At the very least, it can set the bar low enough so everyone feels comfortable to share their seemingly crazy ideas, too.  — Christie Turley, in an article in Fast Company.

Brainstorming Fear #2: Ending a brainstorm with no clear winner

Many times you leave brainstorms with a bunch of little nuggets, but a clear “we got it!” moment. But that’s OK, it’s all part of the process.

New ideas sometimes seem to appear as a flash of insight. But research shows that such insights are actually the culminating result of prior hard work on a problem. This thinking is then given time to incubate in the subconscious mind as we connect threads before the ideas pop out as new eureka-like innovations. — Martin Zwilling, in an article in Entrepreneur.

Brainstorming Fear #3: Getting stuck on the same (or similar) idea

It can be easy to want to cut off conversation swirling around a single idea, or move on to new territory too quickly if it feels like something was already covered. But actually, hearing a different person explain a similar idea can lead down different avenues.

Any time a group of people is tasked with coming up with ideas, there will be duplication. In this duplication is the semi-hidden benefit of nuance. Each time an idea is expressed, the author of the idea uses language different from that used in a similar idea. These different expressions of a similar theme may resonate differently for each person in the group, sparking their own thinking or bringing to light a compelling benefit. — Greg Cobb, in an article in Ideas to Go.

Have you found any great methods for getting ideas going? What other fears about brainstorming do you find unwarranted?