Brainstorming: 8 Ways to Make it Rain

on March 18, 2011

The perfect example of a bad idea (this picture) in a safe environment (this blog.)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve long been taught that a bad idea is just that–bad. And furthermore that there’s no time or place for such things.

And, like me, you may have been told by a boss or two that ‘there’s work to be done,’ that ‘we really need to focus and find a brilliant idea’ or ‘it’s time get serious here.’

And while it’s true that most cutting room floors, waste baskets and junk folders are full of those very bad ideas, I would argue that when it comes to creative brainstorming, there’s no such thing as a “bad idea.”

Sure, I’ve been known to spend copious amounts of brainstorming time throwing out nauseating taglines and ridiculous brand campaigns, but there’s something to be said for the kind of brainstorm environment that allows–and embraces that.

An environment that let’s the creative juices to flow–the good with the bad.

Which is why I’m very thankful that I work at a place and with people that let me suggest my bad ideas. Not just because I find humor in them, but because a lot of times they lead to better and often, dareisay, great ideas.

The question is, though, for anyone who has or will work in a place where the brainstorming sessions are much more like a Seattle spring spit-shower and less like a glorious downpour of genius ideas, what goes in to making a brilliant brainstorm?

In addition to creating a safe environment where bad ideas can go to play (and hopefully turn into good ones) Business Week wrote an article a few years ago that outlined  8 rules to making it rain in brainstorm meetings (and no, they didn’t use the phrase ‘make it rain,’ but had they invited me to the article editing brainstorm, maybe—just maybe– they would’ve considered it.)

The rules are:

  1. USE BRAINSTORMING TO COMBINE AND EXTEND IDEAS, NOT JUST HARVEST THEM
  2. DON’T BOTHER IF PEOPLE LIVE IN FEAR
  3. DO INDIVIDUAL BRAINSTORMING BEFORE AND AFTER GROUP SESSIONS
  4. BRAINSTORMING SESSIONS ARE WORTHLESS UNLESS IDEAS LEAD TO ACTION
  5. BRAINSTORMING REQUIRES SKILL AND EXPERIENCE BOTH TO DO—AND ESPECIALLY—TO FACILITATE
  6. A GOOD BRAINSTORMING SESSION IS COMPETITIVE—IN THE RIGHT WAY
  7. BRAINSTORMING SESSIONS CAN BE USED FOR MORE THAN JUST GENERATING IDEAS
  8. FOLLOW THE RULES, OR DON’T CALL IT A BRAINSTORM

For the full article, read here, and try incorporating these rules into your next brainstorm session (insert joke here about needing wellies and an umbrella for when the ideas start pouring in.) (insert second joke referencing Rihanna’s Umbrella)