There are 9 simple rules that I always bring with me to a group brainstorming session. They are as follows:
1. Defer judgment, any idea is a good idea
2. Encourage wild ideas, they can be the key to solutions
3. Build on the ideas of others, no "buts", only "ands"
4. Stay focused on the topic
5. One conversation at a time, no interrupting, dismissing, disrespect or rudeness
6. Be visual and physical, draw "it", act "it" out, break a sweat
7. Go for quantity
8. Diversity is more important than expertise
9. Someone besides the "boss" goes first
I would like to focus on and expand upon rule number eight. Group brainstorming can be very effective for bringing the full experience and creativity of all members of the group to contemplate on an issue. When individual group members get stuck with an idea, another member's creativity and experience can take the idea further.I believe the diversity in your group is the key ingredient to taking your brainstorming to the next level and making it successful. For this reason, I encourage you not to limit your group sessions to C-level or like-minded individuals. The best results in brainstorming occur when everyone in the organization, from the intern to the CEO, is participating.
Case in point, when I worked for the innovative consumer product company, our initial product line consisted of ear warmers and winter gloves. We had just introduced a few products to the summer beach market. The individual products had been named, but we had yet to name the product line.Our winter products went under the brand 180’s, and we felt it would be confusing to use a brand associated with the winter items on the new summer beach products.Therefore, we set out to create a brand name for the summer beach product line.
Although we were in a hyper-growth state at this point, going from 17 teammates and $7.5 million in annual sales to 36 teammates and $15.4 million in annual sales, we were conservative with our expenditures.We decided that we would try to come up with a brand name on our own instead of hiring a marketing group to help. We jammed our entire group of teammates from warehousemen, to receptionist, to the C-suite, into our conference room for a brainstormer. It was after work hours, so we had dinner brought in for the team. We laid out the 9 rules for brainstorming and went at it. The question we set out to answer was, “What would be a good brand name for our summer beach product line?”
Within an hour we had more than 100 names. Then we went back and crossed out any name that anyone in the “storming” session felt had a negative connotation. About an hour later, for one reason or another we had crossed out all the names. Undaunted, we circled back to the beginning of the process (it was like “lather, rinse, repeat”). A half a dozen names or so into round two, our receptionist (soon to be my daughter in law) said “Fahrenheit,” someone else across the room yelled “Celsius,” our controller said “Kelvin.” Then it came, one of the research and development guys took the “K” from Kelvin and replaced the “C” in Celsius….and with a few more adjustments…Kelsyus was born.
Kelsyus quickly became well established in the marketplace and within twelve months we had sold the brand to Swimways Products. If you look closely next time you are at the beach or the pool you are likely to see a Kelsyus chair, beach mat, or floating ring. The name, created during a simple brainstorming exercise, is still attached to the products.
The team creativity that was fostered with this exercise was impactful. However, the real beauty of the story is that the receptionist was the trigger to the final name. The fact that the receptionist came up with the game winning idea exemplifies that value is created when everyone in the organization can actively participate in brainstorming and share their ideas.