“Be prepared” is a mantra that stretches from Plato to Pierre Curie to the Boy Scouts. It’s also relevant for a brainstorm. There’s nothing worse when your participants are ready to brainstorm and you only have a dried-out marker.
I keep a large box of brainstorm supplies in my office where I always have the tools I need at hand. Here’s what’s inside.
- Markers or textas. Whiteboard markers are a must. My preference is for large sized (2mm) bullet-nosed markers (not blade-edged). I like a lot of different colours, but definitely in the basic black, blue, red and green. My favourites are the six-packs of Lumocolors from Staedtler, although I also like Artline and DuraMark. A tip: avoid scented markers, either ones heavily chemical in scent or food-/fruit-flavoured. I also steer clear of store-branded markers (either Officeworks, Staples or OfficeMax) because they don’t last long or they dry-out easily.
- Pens. You need writing tools for exercises, so I have plenty of coloured pens, crayons and pencils. The most famous ones are the connector pens by Faber-Castell with the added benefit of doubling as toys.
- Flip-chart paper. Everyone loves 3M self-adhesive pages. They’re good for quickly sticking to walls, but they’re wildly expensive (eespecially here in Australia.) I make do with the plain kind, or you might try butcher’s paper or craft paper.
- Tape. Regardless of whether you use self-sticking flip-chart paper or not, tape is handy to help post (or re-stick, or smooth down) pages on walls. I prefer masking tape, but cellophane tape works too. Blue-Tac is good re-usable options. For rooms with upholstered walls – like hotels – I keep handy a box of push-pins.
- Highlighters. Again, get lots of different colours. They’re also handy to differentiate ideas on flip-charts from the regular markers.
- Paper. Blank pages are great for drawing, doing mini-exercises or games, or allowing participants to write their own notes. There’s some options here, such as …
- Blank paper. Whether you use A4 or 8.5 x 11 in your printer, I like to re-use by gathering cast-off pages printed only on one side.
- Blank index cards. They’re good to use for creative exercises.
- Post-its. I like them in all sizes and colours.
- Rolled paper. IKEA also has cheap rolls of paper (30m/98 feet) under its Mala brand for AU$8/US$7.
- Dots. Formally known as adhesive labels, they’re small circular sticky dots to give people five votes on the best ideas. I usually pre-cut the dots into short strips of 5.
- Postcards. I pick them up in coffee shops and restaurants as visual stimuli for marketing ideas.
- Clay. Play-Doh is the brand name everyone recognises, although there’s plenty of non-brand clays which are equally effective and often far cheaper.
- Magazines. I have a big stack in my office when I need to grab them for visual stimuli. I tell clients to get a laundry basket or similar for everyone to throw old magazines.
- Toys, games and exercises. Lots of options, limited only to your budget. I have the traditional LEGOs of simple blocks. IKEA also makes some good, cheap simple building blocks out of foam. Many are available as playing cards. That’s great, but you can also make your own.
- Office supplies. You’ll often need some basic office supplies, so I keep extra ink pens, pencils, erasers, staplers and scissors. I also have several decks of playing cards when I need something neutral to group people into teams.
A final tip. The best time of year to buy or replenish your supplies box is during back-to-school month. Office supplies are a natural place to shop, but think about the school supply aisles at grocery stores. I also like $1 shops for cheap kids toys, markers and games.
Any other tools or items you often find helpful to keep on hand for brainstorms?