5 Ways to Brainstorm Better — and Be More Creative

You know there are great ideas lurking in the minds of your company’s employees. But how do you get them to share those ideas, when “brainstorming” sessions lead to sniping, or, even worse, silence?

Marilyn Barefoot

Marilyn Barefoot

Part of the problem is that many employees don’t feel that they are “creative” enough to offer ideas.

According to Marilyn Barefoot, CEO of Barefoot Brainstorming, that’s all wrong. “The truth is that everyone is creative,” she says. “They just need the tools to unlock the creativity that lies deep inside them.”

Communication professionals can play a role in making sure great new ideas not only get heard, but are acted on. By branding themselves as expert brainstorming facilitators who get results, they can help shepherd an organization’s ideas through from inception to implementation. And that’s more important now than ever, when the ability to innovate can make or break a company.

“Big ideas rally customers and employees around a brand,” says Barefoot. “They incite passion—and they achieve impressive results. New ideas are the fuel that drives a business or a brand forward. If you do not harness the creative power of your own team and the insights of your customers, you risk lost sales, market share and, more importantly, the ability to stand head and shoulders above your competitors.”

Successfully harnessing the creative power of your workforce can also go a long way to building employee engagement. According to Barefoot: “When the people in the organization are at the forefront of creating the solution, they work very hard to make it successful.”

It’s not just about coming up with big ideas; turning ideas into actionable solutions requires deliberate effort. Barefoot recommends the following process to make sure innovations make it out of brainstorming sessions and into practice:

  1. Capture all of the ideas generated during a brainstorming session into a cohesive report within 24 hours of the session.
  2. Have a small strategic senior group of stakeholders using a predetermined list of criteria evaluate the “big ideas” report.
  3. Assign responsibility for ideas that meet the criteria for implementation to specific people. Someone needs to take ownership of the future of the ideas and the next steps they require.
  4. Have regular check-in meetings with all of the stakeholders to ensure that the right action is being pursued to take the concept from an idea to a truly innovative solution.
  5. Expect and celebrate failure along the way—don’t consider it the end of the line.

At her session “Big Ideas that Will Knock Your Socks Off,” at the 2014 World Conference, Barefoot will share tips for facilitating engaging brainstorming sessions that people look forward to—rather than dread—attending.