Effective Brainstorming Tips

I LOVE a good brainstorming session. There’s nothing like great minds coming together to form a new idea or solve a specific problem.

But in order to actually do that, the brainstorming has to be, well…good. It needs to be a productive meeting of the minds.

To ensure that happens, be mindful of these five tips:

1. Prep, prep, prep! (And encourage others to, as well)

Many people show up to brainstorms ready to do all the work there. But most of the time, that’s a mistake. That’s not to say you can’t come up with a great idea without doing a little prep work, but you’re more likely to come up with a great idea if you do put in some thought beforehand.

Encourage everyone to show up to the meeting with a few ideas ready to share. Think of it as an exercise for warming up all of your brains. You’ve given it some thought, and now you’re ready to take it to that next level. (That’s when the REALLY good ideas will start to flow.)

2. Create a safe space and invite bad ideas

NOTHING kills a brainstorming session faster than mocking others’ ideas. Sure, it’s fine to laugh here and there, but be very cautious of this. If someone feels like their ideas are being made fun of, they’re likely to shutdown altogether, meaning fewer ideas being added to the pool. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from brainstorming, it’s that “bad ideas” are often the ones that lead to great ideas. They trigger thoughts in others, and that’s what brainstorming is all about!

3. Plan for a morning brainstorm, if possible

Have you ever noticed that by the end of the day, your brain just feels like mush? That’s because the more tasks you complete, the more tired your brain becomes. It’s normal!

But that said, try to plan your big brainstorming sessions before noon (or at least by early afternoon) when everyone’s minds are still sharp.

4. Invite outside parties

This depends a little bit on what you’re brainstorming and how important the project is, but if it is something important, like the theme of your next conference, try to get a diverse group of people involved. People outside of your planning committee, for example. Sometimes we get so stuck in our own pattern of thinking that it really helps to have fresh perspectives.

5. Know when to call it quits

Have you ever been in a brainstorming session that lasted for hours and just seemed to get more and more unproductive? That happens. But when that happens, be comfortable calling it quits and planning to regroup at another time.

You can’t force good ideas, so if you’re all just having an off day (maybe it’s a Friday, for example, and you’re all wiped), take a little break and approach it with fresh minds another day. (Rarely will “powering through” lead to good results.)

So there you have it. Tips for effective brainstorming. Let the good (and bad) ideas flow!

And hey, whether you’re brainstorming ideas for your next conference, new ways to recruit younger members, fresh streams of non-dues revenue, or something else entirely, check out our Ultimate Guide to Membership Management. It can serve as a great starting point for you and your team, and you never know what ideas it might spark!