Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ode to the creative brainstorm

This post isn't about poetry it's about the recent opining over the creative brainstorm. People are mourning it like it got hit by a car or something. But it hasn't. The opportunity to have a great brainstorm is right there in front of us but we can't see for looking cuz we're all too busy politicizing the process. Most of the time, even when we spot the opportunity to brainstorm proper, someone will murder it in the library with a candle stick before anyone even gets a chance to cop a feel. And when that happens, it's no accident.

Let's agree that whatever the brainstorm is supposed to look like, it has to happen. If you think it's useless altogether - stop reading. You're wasting your time. This post is not for you. If you agree that a brainstorm is like required reading a first-year sociology class, you may proceed.

A brainstorm is an event. You invite people. You can serve drinks. There can be entertainment. You can even include a raffle if you like. So you have to give it a location and then decide what form it will take. For example:

The knuckle buster:
Some folk say things just is what they is and a brainstorm has to be traditional. Don Draper style. That type of brainstorm consists of a glass of whiskey, a pack of Lucky Strikes and dame or a skirt. You could take this angle if you wanted to. There's nothing wrong with doing it missionary style. Old school. The way our parents used to do it. Lock yourselves in a room, pitch ideas and git at er pitter patter. Be forewarned. The traditional brainstorm often creates traditional results.

The bezzie mate:
Other people like to create a more "supportive" atmosphere wherein
no ideas are criticized
it's about quantity, not quality
wild thinking is encouraged
build on ideas put forward by others before exploring your own

How nice. If it works for you, go ahead and put that hop in your bunny.

The technological marvel complete with reports:
Some people even sell software...(which I happen to find a little scary) that can aggregate all the ideas the creative group comes up with. It will prioritize and rank those ideas and then...it creates reports! And SWOT’s and scenario building and it slices and dices too. Brainstorm and scenario building software. "No more hard copy sticky notes and flip-overs. Every participant creates, moves and groups ideas using his own mouse and/or keyboard on one screen at the same time. Vote for ideas and groups of ideas, create sub sessions, generate visual and textual reports on the fly. Twice as fast as traditional brainstorm and scenario building methods and very flexible." That's real copy I took from their site and, Sham-wow, this type of brainstorm is the opposite of what Don Draper would do.

But whatever, you get my point. A brainstorm can be a lot of things but it has to be SOMETHING and here's what it can't be:

The Sit and Surf:
If a bunch of you are in a room and you decide to launch a browser you're asking for trouble. I know it's tempting! But the sit and surf is just like a surf and turf. You order it because you think you want a little bit of this that compliments a little bit of that but in the end all you get on your plate is a bottom feeder and bite-sized piece of the protein. I am all for getting inspiration from the web, but unless you're going to interrupt your meeting to settle a bet about how leeches reproduce because you SIMPLY CANNOT CONTINUE TO BRAINSTORM WITHOUT THAT INFORMATION, you will inadvertently shut down your brainstorm. People get distracted. Death knell.

The Oh-no-you-di'int:
Don't tell people to shut up. Let them have their insanely rude, ridiculous, offensive way-off-brand thoughts. It will get you somewhere. It's easier to shave a bunch of hair off your face than to grow the perfect moustache. That being said...

The shovel:
Once your idea is on the table and you feel you've been heard, let it go. If it's worthy of further discussion, it will come back. Someone else will bring it back. Then you know it's a good idea. If you are so impassioned that you cannot let your idea go it's all about you and your ego. Leggo your ego.

There are so many dos and don'ts that this post could go on forever. What you need to have a successful brainstorm is the right people who all have open minds and one goal. The rest is just subjective. How you and your peeps get there is up to you. You want a white board? You want a bottle of scotch? You want a lot of sunlight? You want technology? Whatever works for you is great.

Pick someone to lead the meeting and have that person keep you on track. Don't waste time arguing about the merit of the product. Instead, know what the benefits of the product are. Don't waste time debating who the target is. Instead, have your personas at the ready. Don't waste time discussing advertising from an existentialist perspective. You're in advertising. You don't like advertising? Don't do advertising. Do something else. Just because it's digital doesn't mean it's not advertising. You can call a banner ad display but it's still a banner ad. Love what you're doing in that brainstorm or exclude yourself from it. Know what your role is. Know what your job is. Know where to find the integrity in what you do.

Once you're in that territory just start talking and the ideas will flow.

No comments: