Brainstorming: How to get that next bright idea

Not every idea is a good idea
In time-poor environments, there are simple steps to be followed.
There's no such thing as a bad idea.” At some point, everyone who has ever participated in a creative thinking session has heard that saying. But is it true? Is every idea really a good idea?
Alex Osborn, an advertising executive and one of the world’s most famous brainstorm leaders, stood by the mantra. He believed that the most successful creativity came when ideas were heard without criticism. But in a time-poor environment, many ideas are simply stopped in their tracks without a fair trial. So what are the biggest hurdles preventing that “big idea” from coming to life and how can businesses be more effective in thinking outside the box?


A certain amount of structure in brainstorming is key to making the most of people’s already stretched time.
Make sure the participants know how much of their time you’ll need. Knowing at what point they’ll be back at their desk means they can focus on the job in hand without the “how long is this going to take?” attitude.
Start the session by laying out the problem and objectives of the solution. Question the brief and define the responsibilities of those present.
But remember to keep it simple. Solving problems via an overly analytical process can lead to the development of limited and unimaginative ideas.
An hour of focused quality time with the right people can at times be far more creative than a whole day’s thinking.


Criticism kills creativity. Approach every brainstorm with an open mind and a spirit of non-judgement.
Creating a free and positive environment will encourage everyone to participate. The last thing you want is a situation where people are too scared to speak up, holding back because they’re worried about what colleagues might say or think.
It’s not a case of patting each other on the back and being overly complimentary and nice to each other – but it is about being good to each other.
If someone suggests a concept that isn’t quite on the mark, don’t disregard it. Treat every thought and idea as a trigger and a prompt to something else. Build on it and move with it and that big idea may move with you.
It’s also worth remembering that people are likely to be more committed to an idea if they were involved in its creation and development – and that also applies to clients.


Leave job titles outside. We come to brainstorms as just that – brains, rather than seniority. It’s important that everyone involved attends with the spirit of openness; prepared to listen to everyone’s suggestions.
Mixing up skill sets and bringing together a diverse range of experiences is the key. It only increases the richness of the ideas explored, which ultimately results in better solutions for a client’s problem.
Lastly, effective creative thinking comes from the quality of people in the room rather than the quantity of people voicing ideas. So the next time you’re booking a team session, remember it isn’t about having everyone there, it’s about having the right people there for the brief in question.
David Jenkinson is a creative director for global brand design agency Elmwood.

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