Creative Brainstorming

by Heather Keroes

Your job title doesn’t need the word “creative” in order for your role to be creative.  That’s one lesson that struck home for me when I attended the PRSA Sunshine District Conference this year.  Hundreds of PR professionals gathered from across Florida to experience an amazing line-up of speakers, including Duncan Wardle, vice president of Walt Disney Company’s Creative Inc., Disney’s team of “creative ideation and innovation catalysts.”

Wardle did not get up on a stage to give a presentation.  Instead, he took our large group through creative exercises designed to push past our own barriers.  Here are a couple of examples that may inspire you and serve as catalysts for your next brainstorm.

  • Start with a Smile – In groups of three, we took turns playing expert and reporters.  And boy, Wardle selected unique subject matter for the experts!  When it was my turn to play the expert, I became a relationship therapist for unicorns.  The result?  The most fun and fantastical “media” interview on the planet.  And bonus, it was a great way to get the juices flowing and incite laughter.  Smiles = relaxed way of thinking = creative thoughts.
  • Say, “Yes, And …” – Question:  Who are the most creative thinkers out there?  Answer:  Children.  But why?  As Wardle explained, when we become adults we think more efficiently and we seek to rationalize.  So when you bring up that next truly “out of the box” idea at your team brainstorm, the chances of it getting shot down are pretty high.  The problem isn’t that others don’t appreciate your idea; it’s that they have already weighed it against a predetermined set of criteria (resources, budget, time, etc.).  We’re naysayers by nature, so instead of saying, “no,” or “yes, but …” try saying “yes, and …” By doing so, you’ll make a good idea even better and encourage others to share their creative thoughts.

Other tips:

  • Give your employees dedicated time to work on “ideation” – the creation of ideas.
  • Hold your brainstorms in different places, not just conference rooms.  See the sun once in a while.
  • Keep the number of participants small for each brainstorm, so you have more time to explore ideas.  Wardle recommended four people as the ideal.
  • Invite “naïve experts” to join your brainstorm.  These experts come from outside your department or profession, so they aren’t constricted by the knowledge and preconceptions your team may possess.  For example, Wardle has invited chefs to join his team for brainstorm sessions that aren’t about food.

Our brainstorm sessions at Curley & Pynn have always resulted in fun ideas (especially when aided by my favorite brain fuel, ice cream), but I plan to start adding some of the above approaches into the mix.  Do you have any unique brainstorming tips?  Share them in the comments below.

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