The Perfect Storm: 5 Ways to Shake Up Your Brainstorm

We like to shake things up at GYK Antler from time to time. Sometimes that means playing around with our own internal workings. The latest process we’re tinkering with is our brainstorming format. To summon the “perfect storm” for collaboration, we’ve rewritten a few rules you typically find in brainstorming sessions (like “creatives only” and “there are no bad ideas”). Brainstorms are intended to do one thing and one thing alone: generate ideas. So, in our brainstorms, the account and strategy teams come to play, and we bring our bad ideas to the table. (Though we usually leave them there.)
1. Make a brief (and make it brief).
Rather than adding people’s names to an invite and hoping for the best, place a few well-intended boundaries around the brainstorm. Give the participants something to chew on before they arrive. Some shooting the shit is good, and dare we say necessary at the start of every brainstorm, but it shouldn’t take up the entire hour. It helps to send around a short brief at least a day before the brainstorm outlining the challenge, ask, audience, goal and a question for everyone to answer.
Note: That last part isn’t optional. Bringing ideas to the table beforehand is on everyone’s shoulders.
2. Switch up the roster.
I’ll be the first to admit the thought of adding someone from account or strategy into a brainstorm makes me a little uncomfortable. That said, you know where the most growth tends to come from? Discomfort. Good ideas transcend org charts. Adding new voices to the mix means getting on the same page right out of the gate, which also makes internal reviews much smoother later on. Keep in mind, you don’t have to invite every team member to every brainstorm, but it shouldn’t always be the same three people either.
3. There is such a thing as a bad idea.
Let’s be real – we all come up with some stinkers. Now, we’re not naming names… *cough-Pepsi**cough-Ram*… but there’s nothing wrong with admitting that something’s off base. It’s better to catch bad ideas early on than to risk producing something you’ll have to redo or take down. You can absolutely call out concerns, but instead of telling someone their ideas aren’t valid, consider asking them to expand. Sometimes bad ideas pivot into good ideas with a little more thought and exploration. (You know we love us a pivot.) Other times, you just have to let it go. The key is creating an environment where people aren’t afraid to say their ideas out loud.
4. Listen as much as you speak.
Being the loudest voice in the room doesn’t always mean you’re right. This isn’t a call for extroverts to shrink down, but a friendly reminder that it can be hard to compete with big personalities. For every concept you toss out there, listen twice as hard, pick up what others are putting down, and practice not being so precious about your own ideas. (Refer to #3.)
5. Snacks.
That is all.
On Carley’s very first report card, her teacher wrote, “Carley spends a lot of time writing.” Little did her teacher know she’d spend the next thirty years obsessing over it. At GYK Antler, Carley’s writing has found a home with brands ranging from NH Travel and Tourism and Mountain Hardware to Timberland and Baxter. She’s not sure if it’s because GYK Antler knows how much she loves adventure, boots, and beer, or if it’s just dumb luck. Either way, she’ll take it. When she’s not at the office, you can find Carley shimmying to live music, hitting up comedy shows, and surfing in all four seasons.

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