Twelve Steps to Incredibly Big Ideas

Incredibly Big Ideas

We are always interested in new tips and tactics to make brainstorming sessions more effective, and boost idea generation. Marilyn Barefoot of Barefoot Brainstorming has lots of resources on her website. Here are some of her recommended tactics.

Twelve Steps to Incredibly Big Ideas.

Diverge: Use multiple forms of external stimuli to generate a long list of random thoughts, words and feelings. For example, you can find these external stimuli through photo association, scavenger hunts, and line drawings.

Converge: Provide the guests with a clearly articulated task. Guests should never be given the task in advance, or the “diverge” portion of the process will be compromised. Ask the guests to use the long list of random thoughts, words and feelings as “spring boards” to solve the task at hand. Not everything on the random list of words will work, so just focus on the words that are easily transformed into ideas.

All ideas have value: Ensure that everyone shares their thoughts with the rest of the group… no matter how “out there” the idea might seem. There is a reason why things pop into your brain! It also maintains the creative momentum of the group, since other guests will “piggyback” on the idea.

Teams: Whenever possible invite enough people to the brainstorming session so that you can create at least a couple of teams. This will increase your creative output while ensuring that everyone is actively participating in the session… plus, a little healthy competition never hurt either!

Tension bow: Be extremely alert to the attention span of your guests. Creative thinking is tiring, hard work. Sixty minutes is a practical maximum. Keep things solid and short.

Fun = Success! Bring along some toys. Children do most of their learning through playing with toys. When we become adults we often lose touch with that inner child that sees things as brand new and with endless possibilities. Fun is a critical element in the creative process. It is a fact that people are the most creative when they are having fun.

Paper:Bring and use lots! Dry-erase boards get recycled and ideas can be lost if you use them. Make sure someone is writing down all of the ideas with different colored markers on big sheets of paper, on an easel that is easy to see. This provides the group with visual stimulation for new ideas as well as a record of all of the ideas! [Second Wind Hint:take photos of idea boards to review and share later.]

Physical movement:Most facilitators hugely underestimate the role of physical movement in brainstorming. It‘s CRUCIAL that you get people “into action.” Let them search for something, do something, but get them OUT of their chairs.

Music: Playing music can also help stimulate creativity in a brainstorming session. Use it as often as you can.

Enthusiasm: A high level of enthusiasm is a very important ingredient! The facilitator must be the “spark” and the group will follow, and “feed” on the energy.

Negativity cramps creativity: Create a “parking lot” on an easel in the corner of the room for use as a catch-all for negative thoughts. Anyone who thinks of a reason an idea wont work must write it on a post-it note and stick it in the “parking lot.” Negativity will sabotage creative thinking.

Fresh Faces: Always invite new people to the session… particularly if they know nothing about the client. Often the best and most original ideas come from people who can see the task from an unencumbered perspective.


Marilyn Barefootis the founder of Barefoot Brainstorming. Contact Marilyn at marilyn@barefootbrainstorming.com.

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