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Harness the Power of the Creative Brainstorm

December 10, 2013
For philanthropic organizations looking for fresh ideas for fundraising events and auctions or overall business improvements, brainstorming is a natural way to gather thoughts for consideration. But does your organization brainstorm strategically, with a real end goal in mind? All the creative ideas in the world don't add up to results unless they link to an overall strategic direction, set by the brainstorm leader, whose job is also to fire up the group! Some teams dread brainstorming, seeing it as a waste of time or as a cause for “performance anxiety.” It needn’t be! Here are some pointers that work for Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

The judgment-free zone. The atmosphere should be welcoming, positive and all-inclusive, with the promise that every idea will be considered. This way, the participants won’t be hesitant to share their ideas for fear of ridicule.

Don’t go in cold. Brainstorms work best when the participants are prepared. This can mean anything from preparing a detailed creative brief describing the situation and the goals as well as providing suggested websites to visit for more background.

Start by setting the objectives. Do you want a slew of creative ideas to break an existing event out of the doldrums? Are you seeking to create a draw for a new audience segment? A helpful way to start is to discuss some trends in the category s well as what the competition is up to. Non-profits must also keep in mind the serious nature of the cause they represent/raise money for. This doesn't mean you can't be creative, just keep ideas within certain bounds.

Let the fun begin. Once people start shouting out suggestions or solutions, write them down… all of them. Even though some ideas won’t make sense at the time, they may lead to other things. The best ideas often come from a simple phrase. “My donors love exotic travel” for instance, can open the doors for bringing in expert partners such as Mitch-Stuart, Inc. to do the “heavy lifting.”

Avoid diminishing returns. During any given brainstorm, there is typically a time where the initial excitement dulls and everybody falls into an awkward silence. Sometimes rewording the initial objective or goal is all you need to do to get the juices flowing again. People just need to see it in a different light. Or else bring out the candy!

Never stop brainstorming. Even when the meeting is over and everyone has returned to their desks, create an email chain, or a running word document with the top ideas, fleshed out to give the team something more to build on. A creative team leader can help further the concepts by adding greater detail and graphics to ensure the best result.
 
If traditional creative brainstorming isn’t working for you, check out “speedstorming” a combination of brainstorming and “speed-dating” or brainstorming on steroids.