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11 ways to build creativity into brainstorming

by Randall Craig on September 30, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Engagement, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , , ,

Many leaders find themselves faced with the difficult task of harnessing their team’s creativity to solve challenging problems.  Yet so often, group brainstorming yields little or no significant benefits.  Why?

Sometimes it is a question of facilitation skills.  Sometimes a lack of creative process.  But often it is because of one key fact that is so often forgotten: at the core of great group creativity, is great individual creativity. This is where leaders need to focus.

People need time to think by themselves; without this opportunity, there is a risk of groupthink.  Said another way, people need time to recall relevant knowledge from their deep memory banks, and then they need time to process this experience in the context of the challenge at hand.  Asking people to brainstorm individually first is far more productive for this reason.  Then, when the group gets together, there is that magical synthesis.

Here are 11 ways to build better brainstorming:

  1. Ensure individual pre-prep time is scheduled, and expected.
  2. Ask participants to write down X number of ideas, and bring them in.
  3. Invite a diverse group to attend.
  4. Capture all ideas visually.
  5. Try using mind-map techniques / fish-bone diagrams.
  6. Don’t use a creative meeting to discard ideas – only generate them.
  7. Foster idea growth (instead of saying “no but”, say “yes and”)
  8. Penalize people who shut down ideas by requiring the payment of a token dollar
  9. Circulate ideas afterwards to pick up additional concepts.
  10. Use an external facilitator.
  11. Ask the group beforehand: how do you become more creative?

This week’s action plan: At your next meeting that requires any creative output, start with this list as an input.

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Randall Craig

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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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