Idea generation, brainstorming

For a lot of marketers and creative types, brainstorming is a way of life. Coming up with new ideas. Creating clever campaigns to drive engagement. Being strategic with creative assets. This is where we left-brainers thrive, right?

Meh. Maybe.

One truth about marketing and advertising you don’t often hear is that creative brainstorming isn’t everyone’s jam. This makes sense; after all, not everyone performs in the same kind of environment. Nonetheless, idea generation at some level is an essential part of the job.

If you are trying to get more out of your team, give some thought to the different personalities you work with as you plan your future brainstorming sessions. Think about how you might encourage more participation — or more dynamic, high-quality participation. Here are some considerations for accommodating a variety of personalities and styles.


Introverts and Extroverts

I am an introvert. Participating in creative brainstorms has always been something that I’ve dreaded. I knew it was part of my job. I made it work. I even led my fair share of the sessions. But for me, creative brainstorming can be downright painful. A big group of people gathering together to talk and come up with ideas — and ugh, having to fight for airtime with Susie Miss Idea Machine … It was more than I could deal with some days. But the experience aside, introverts can be just as creative as extroverts. We might like to sit in a quiet space to come up with ideas vs. a room full of people.

So, how do you make the experience work for all members of your team so you can draw out all the good ideas?

Traditional brainstorms generally favor extroverts — people who draw their energy from larger group settings. But consider smaller sessions to encourage your introverts to participate. You might even want to consider a virtual brainstorm and invite ideas to be submitted electronically. Introverts might find comfort in the virtual process, and depending on how you do it, the team can still riff off each other.


Fast and Slow Thinkers

Regardless of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you may or may not be quick on your feet. And some people need time to mull. Giving people time with the material allows them an opportunity to enjoy their own creative process.

So, when you can, try to avoid last-minute meetings. Some team members are fine on the spot. However, if everyone has had a few days with the assignment, those quieter, more methodical members of the group can come up with ideas in their own space and then come prepared to share.


Visual and Verbal Types

Infographics and videos are in at the moment, but not everyone excels at visual storytelling. Having different kinds of thinkers in your brainstorming session can help diversify the ideas you get out of the meeting. Even if you think you’re brainstorming a largely copy-driven project, consider having an art director in the room. You never know how he or she will interpret the information and what creative approach might come out of it.

And when you can, think through your expectations and communicate them. For example, pull aside specific team members to give them context around what you expect from them in the meetings that they’re attending. When they understand their role, they’ll be empowered and will feel more comfortable jumping in. Maybe you’re discussing a video project, but the communications lead has no visual storytelling experience. That team member should still be in the room and contributing — and should know that even if they’re not coming up with visuals, their insight still matters.


Over-the-Top Creatives and Practical, Strategic Thinkers

Some people have outside-of-the-box ideas for every project and campaign. And sure, everybody wants to be a Don Draper. But those super-creative concepts are not always possible on every timeline and budget. Bringing people in who can help relate creative ideas to business goals (and frankly, sometimes, reality) is important. And having those people be able to do so without quelling the creative genius in the room is important too.

Again, this is an opportunity to make sure everyone understands their role. A practical, strategic communications manager might be invited simply to listen and get ideas. Sometimes, her function in the meeting might be to help redirect the creative team into new ways of thinking. Maybe you need a creative wiz to inject excitement into a campaign — and maybe you don’t want them to feel bogged down by what’s “possible.”


Diversity on a team is an asset, and various personality types and different kinds of thinkers can bring unique perspectives to any project. The key is helping to make sure everyone is comfortable and empowered in their role so they can bring forth their best ideas. That might be a matter of having the right mix of people in the room, or having conversations with certain members in advance of the meeting, or simply in how you structure and plan the session. But I’m confident that creative brainstorming can be fun and productive — and can lead to great ideas — when you maximize the talents and strengths of every member of your team.