We are, as faithful readers may recall, somewhat hostile to the idea of brainstorming. It’s an attractive idea which often creates enthusiasm – but a massive waste of time without a perceptive editor to sweep up afterwards. The crucial element is, of course, that action-oriented person who separates wheat from the overwhelming chaff, refines the results and directs the important next steps in ideation.
We have better alternatives. One of them is serial brainstorming.
Once a properly-certified and licensed operator (i.e., anybody in the office) pulls off a few feet of potential concepts, they spread it out on the conference table. Everybody gets a strategy briefing, plus markers to whack away at a project in need of concepts. The paper begins to fill up with words, drawings, charts and questions.
Crucially, the sheet of paper is then taped to the war-room wall, and left up for days. After a day or two for ideas to percolate, individuals insert new phrases and dream-inspired doodles, answer questions left the day before, watch ideas unfold, migrate, compost and bloom.
Yes, the editor is still crucial (should we say indispensable?) and yes, there’s still plenty of chaff, but the time added for reflection and dialog stimulates creativity. Sometimes the original is refreshed by a newly-dispensed sheet with best-concepts-so-far, and posted again on the wall. (Preferably a wall you have to pass to go to the bathroom or coffee machine.)
It simply works better than traditional brainstorming. “There are no bad ideas!” unleashes a thousand bad ideas, instantly. Many people, by contrast, make great contributions after a few days’ pondering. Do you get valuable ideas in the shower or just after sleep? That’s a function of letting a problem percolate in the subconscious over time. Archetypal right-brain people (for example, left-handed art directors who don’t spell well) often are fabulous adding drawings and designs – much better for them than verbalizing concepts for a moderator to write down. These in turn inspire others (on their way to the coffee machine) to connect the dots and synthesize something new.
Do we recommend you try this on your own? Heck, no. We have The Concept Dispenser™ under lock and key, pal. In the wrong hands, who knows what it might dispense. Our brains, however, are for rent.