Your editorial calendar has holes. Your content creators don’t feel creative. Your content marketing strategy is dying.
When challenged to create, rejuvenate, or rethink what your team does, it’s time to connect for a good brainstorming session.
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What is brainstorming?
Introduced by advertising executive Alex Osborn in 1953 in his book Application Imagination , brainstorming using lateral thinking to solve problems. For most of 70 years because researchers improved his process.
Keeping a comfortable and intimate environment matters. When brainstorming is too structured, it inhibits the creative process and disrupts the flow of ideas, which is the antithesis of the concept.
Here are some rules for group brainstorming:
- No bad comments.
- There is no need to stop and evaluate or expand on ideas until the end of the session.
- Don’t set a quantity target for your idea.
- Don’t be afraid to use multiple techniques in one brainstorming session.
- Save all your ideas. What you don’t use right away can be the inspiration for “unfinished” in the future.
1. Fill gap
Start with your position statement and your desired position statement. Then ask everyone in the brainstorming meeting to come up with ideas for how to get from point A to point B.
You’ll get everything from very specific recommendations to general overviews. At the end of the session, you can organize all your thoughts to develop your vision and action plan. ( Flowchart may help).
Example: “Right now, we sell 10,000 units per month of our best-selling product – vegan vanilla protein powder. By the end of the year, we want to reach 20,000 units of our best-selling product. ”
Brainstorming to fill in the gaps can generate ideas like:
2. Brain writing
With write brain (also known as scribbling), each participant receives a piece of paper or a table of contents to use to write down ideas. In some versions, participants pass papers on to others to add their ideas. After the articles have gone around the room, the participants will share and discuss ideas.
All responses are anonymous, so no one should write down their names. This method works because no one has to worry about whether the team supports them or not. It also prevents discussion before all ideas are finalized. Evaluating ideas too early in the process can damage brainstorming. Sometimes everyone agrees with one of the initial ideas for the sake of harmony or a desire to close the meeting faster.
3. Collaborative writing
Collaborative brainwriting is similar to brainwriting, but idea generation can happen asynchronously. To get started, have someone write the question or problem on a large piece of paper or a whiteboard displayed in public. A leader asks team members to write down their ideas over a week or so. From there, the group can compare ideas.
Also called brainstorming online , this technically works well for remote teams. Set up a system where everyone can share their ideas independently, then collaborate. Google Docs or a Slack channel can work well in this process. Ask each team member to contribute to the system on their own time. Set a deadline, then schedule a meeting where everyone gets together in real time to discuss ideas.
Brainstorming is a way to brainstorm Online. Get people to post #content ideas to a shared chat channel or document ahead of time, then collaborate in a @DarrenDeMatas online meeting via @CMIContent. Click to Tweet
5. 5 reasons why
With this brainstorming method, keep asking “why” – dive from a central idea to a variety of related niche topics that you can use to move forward.
Start with a problematic outcome. Example: “We missed our sales target for the third month in a row.” Then ask, “Why is this happening?”
Answer that question, then ask again, “Why is this happening?” Repeat until you get to the root of the problem. You can go there for less than five reasons. Sometimes, you may need more than that. Both results are fine.
This approach works best when used as a group brainstorming technique and it helps the facilitator guide the conversation. Before you begin, make sure everyone agrees on the exact outcome you’re trying to solve.
Once you’ve gone through the five reasons, analyze the findings and start developing an action plan. However, keep in mind that a brainstorming session is not a planning process.
6. Mind Map
Mind mapping is among the most popular brainstorming techniques because it adds a visual component. By painting a picture of the relationship between ideas, you and your team members can develop more creative ideas. It is a good choice as you can also do it by yourself.
Here’s how: Write down your goal, challenge, or content idea. Think about related issues. Add related ideas to the map to show how they all relate and connect with each other. You can find mind-mapping software online, but old-fashioned pen and paper will work just as well.
This is a great way to get some creative ideas from team members who are shy or disinterested. It also prevents one or two people from dominating the conversation.
No. 8. Trigger
Trigger brainstorming is a version of the round robin technique. As the name implies, it begins with a trigger that encourages creative thinking. The best way to do this is to start with an active or open-ended question.
Let’s say you’re trying to come up with a list of blog topic ideas for a healthcare client. Triggers can be:
- Our client’s customers always seem to interact with the content on…
- Our target audience needs to learn more about…
Storm role Techniques work best in group discussions. Ask team members to imagine themselves as someone related to your goal. For example, if you’re trying to get some great ideas for blog posts, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience.
From there, a scene unfolds, with each team member playing that part. What does the audience want to know? What will they not care? What will motivate them to take an action? Generate ideas from this perspective to change things.
A slight variation on role-playing, storming the image involves the use of a fictional or historical character, like Superman or Abraham Lincoln, or a celebrity (not present in the room). What will that person do to manage the problem or opportunity that you are addressing during the group brainstorming session? How does this figure’s approach work? How can it backfire? Exploring these options encourages imagination and can lead to some highly creative ideas.
charrette method , or charrette design, works best when brainstorming with a large group. This approach divides the large group into smaller groups that discuss one element of the problem over a set period of time. When time runs out, each group passes its idea on to the next group to build on. You can run multiple groups at once, as long as they work on different parts of the problem. At the end of the Charrette, each idea was discussed and refined many times over.
12. Picture Method
Picture method , another type of visual brainstorming, involves establishing your intention. To start, close your eyes and describe what you want to create. For example, “a new e-book for a software vendor customer.”
Each person in the group sets an intention in their head, then closes their eyes. This time, they created a vivid image based on intent. They then added to the picture as a given direction: “Image of the e-book with the customer’s brand on it.” “See what features or topics it should cover.”
Randomly ask a team member to share their idea. Record ideas. Next, ask everyone to visualize the new version of the e-book and start organizing additional ideas. Continue to ask group members to share ideas throughout the brainstorming session. This approach works best when you want to improve, not reinvent the wheel.
13. Step ladder
Technology stepladder Encourage team building while ensuring everyone has a chance to get noticed. You start by sharing the challenge with everyo ne in the room. Then you kick all but two out of the room.
The duo in the room has a certain amount of time to brainstorm. Then you send one more person into the room. Newcomers share their ideas before previous ideas are discussed.
Every few minutes, another person arrives and the process repeats. Finally, everyone will return to the room and share their ideas. From there, you can discuss all the good ideas as a group and decide what to go next.
Which technique would you use first?
Brainstorming focuses on idea generation. Each of these techniques fosters creative approaches to a problem or problem. You may find some of your best ideas come from these exercises.
Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski / Content Marketing Institute