(This post is one in a series outlining my notes from a recent presentation on creativity ("10 ½ Ways To Unlock Your Creative Streak") to the Worldcom Public Relations Group, the world's largest partnership of P.R. firms with more than 100 firms around the globe. The original post with all 11 points is here.)
Given how busy people are – faster deadlines, instant communications, higher productivity – it’s no wonder that people come to a brainstorm in the wrong mindset.
The Closed Mind is the mind working in reactive mode, responding to tasks and duties. It’s a mind under pressure and on deadline. Its focus is order, priorities and efficiency. But at the same time, it’s impatient, probably working in tunnel vision to make sure things get accomplished. This mindset can take up to 90% of a person’s day at work.
The Open Mind is the mind working in proactive mode. To do this, it needs to withdraw from reacting to be able to be constructive. The Open Mind is an imaginative mind, one in daydream. There is no order: it’s chaos, a mess. It’s also flexible, curious and playful.
No surprise, most people come to a brainstorm in the Closed Mind. Closed Minds aren’t creative. If there’s no conscious attempt to switch from Closed to Open, the person will find it more difficult to create ideas. It’s the equivalent of a car in Drive and suddenly the gears are thrown into Reverse.
Let me stick with the car analogy a moment longer
Give people some background before they come into the brainstorm.
I’m a big advocate of creative or strategy briefs. The best ones are short, no more than two pages.
There’s a number of elements to include in a brief, but here are the top three things you’ll need.
The objective the client wants to achieve – both the business goal they want to achieve, as well as the role that communications will help play to achieve the business result.
The basic problem: what’s the issue to solve? The problem may be simple (“it’s a new product,” or “no one’s ever heard of it”). The problem may be difficult (“our service has no differentiation from the competition”). Be articulate and specific: focus on what needs to change.
The mindset of the target audience. What does the audience believe now, and why? Also, demographics are good, but psychographics are better. Based on what the audience thinks and believes, psychographics describe how they behave.
Give people easy homework so they come to the brainstorm prepared.
The simplest “homework” is to give participants an activity.
For a new toothpaste, I had people brush their teeth immediately before the brainstorm. For orange juice, I had people write down everything they did at home an hour or so before and after drinking the new O.J. product.
For media stories, I had everyone buy two traditional media and print two news websites where they’d never typically find their client’s news. We brainstormed how we’d get the client into these publications and websites , then retro-fitted the ideas into actual story angles.
The key is to get people – as soon as possible before the brainstorm – using the product, putting themselves in the shoes of the target audience, or experiencing the circumstances of the client’s service.
Get the right environment.
For many reasons, internal conference rooms are notoriously bad environments for brainstorms, probably because people don’t properly prepare the space for ideation.
If possible, I prefer to get outside. Corner coffee shops are great, but you also can be creative with places to brainstorm. I’ve done brainstorms in supermarkets to launch a new ice cream, in a shopping mall for a global barista, even once in my car, going through the drive-thru for a leading fast food restaurant. All you need is a clipboard, paper and pencils.
If you are going to stay in the office, find a place where you can be loud, silly and imaginative. Bring “sparks” (see Slip-Up #6 Sparks, Sparks and More Sparks). Above all, bring good food and drink.
Here are some other posts you might enjoy.
Ice-breakers are an excellent way to start a brainstorm. It’s a whole topic onto itself, but for the moment, read this:
There are more tips on icebreakers in Slip-Up #6: Sparks, Sparks and More Sparks.
Any additional thoughts, tips or hints to get people in the right mindset?Next Slip-Up: Using shallow research to make strategic decisions.