Full-contact brainstorming

14 Jun

[by Todd] I admit it, I don’t play well with others. <Insert laughing of colleagues, past and present.>

ClubbingA colleague once told me her underlings feared coming to my brainstorming meetings.

"Your team is brutal. People toss out an idea and immediately everyone is trying to club it like some baby seal."

Bless her heart, it made my day.

Brainstorming is all too often an excuse for a half dozen people to bill time to a job without bringing anything meaningful to the mix. Even worse they want to be coddled for the effort.

If you are in a brainstorming meeting, you damn well better bring your A game. That means having at least one kick ass idea. Further, once you toss out your idea there is no back peddling. You are obliged to defend it in the face of all fire until such time as it succeeds or needs to be buried.

You’re sitting in that room because a client believes you have lots of good ideas that will improve their business. Their career is on the line. Weak ideas are going to get them fired. Half-baked, pie-in-the-sky crap will get them flushed out of a career. If you don’t feel the urgency then you have no business  at the table.

So for those who need a way of measuring their work, I offer this series of If-I-Were-In-Charge rules.

1 brainstorming session where you have nothing — you should go home and reconsider your choice of careers.
2 brainstorming sessions where you have nothing — you should be fired.
3 brainstorming sessions where you have nothing — your boss should be fired for not firing you after the second.

Or we could follow Adliterate’s guidance and dump the practice of brainstorming entirely.

For my money the optimum number of people for an idea generation session is two with no facilitator hanging on. Two people that have a vested interest in the quality of the outcome and can switch seamlessly between divergent and convergent thinking until they get to the right idea which they both then build upon.

I can’t understate the value of finding someone who can call bullshit to your face and expects you to do the same back for them. I have that relationship with the ECD on my accounts. I’ve had it with an account director and even the director of development at previous agencies.

A good friend once called it the battle to be the smartest person in the room. I call it a requirement of a successful agency.