If You Think “Structure” and “Creativity” are Polar Opposites, Think Again!

It may seem counterintuitive, but STRUCTURE is absolutely the best way to get creative teams percolating & having fun!  

We created a brainstorming process for our team that gets more great concepts out on the table in the shortest amount of time possible. 

Method in the Madness
It’s true – we creative types love to color outside the lines.  But before we can do that, we really need to see “the lines” we’re working with.

So, well in advance of the Brainstorming Session, creative briefs and other background info are provided to all attendees.  And while we’re on the subject of attendees …

Good Ideas can Come from Anywhere
Great concepts rarely come from a committee.  However, they often START there.  That’s because everyone, regardless of job title, brings a unique point of view and set of personal experiences to the brainstorming table. And the more ideas you have to work with, the higher the chances you’ll land on a truly outstanding concept.

 For our brainstorming sessions, we usually include the producers, admins, sales & marketing staff, account managers, as well as our writers, art directors and creative directors. 

A good PROCESS for participation makes it all work. 

Creative Wrestling in Three Rounds
In the first round, we start with a quick recap of the goals of the project and answer any questions.  Then, the room gets very quiet as each person does their own personal brainstorming,  using sticky notes to capture ideas – one idea per sticky note. 

There’s no time limit here – we just watch the room and when the writing stops, we move to the next step. That’s when everyone presents their ideas – sticky note by sticky note –  all the way around the table. NO critiquing is allowed – not even self-critiques! We literally throw Nerf balls at critics. 

In the second round, it’s “rinse and repeat” with one big exception – all the ideas presented in the first round are now up for grabs.  Everything is fair game to steal from, build on or tinker with, while new thoughts are welcome, too.  And, once again, we wind up with stacks of new sticky notes and the opportunity for each attendee to share their new ideas.  Nope – still no critiquing.  

With two full rounds of ideas developed and shared with the team, round three is all about identifying our favorites.  Nerf balls are given a rest so we can discuss the pros and cons of contentious ideas and then it’s time to step back and take inventory of what seemed to resonate with the most people.    

Here’s the twist.  At this point in the creative process, the work of the brainstorming committee is done.  There’s no vote and no ideas are immediately eliminated.  

Instead, all those great ideas (and all of the less popular ones, too) are bundled up and handed over to an art director, writer and creative director to play with, reconsider, build on or use as fodder.

What this small group of specialists comes up with may be a polished version of something from the bigger team, or something completely new, but inspired by the bigger team.  Either way is a win!

Chaos to Content
When concept development is a key deliverable for your team, you have to have a better method in place than just letting the group sit and  talk for an hour. We all  know those meetings are usually dominated by one or two people, and in the end, the only results will be theirs, since less assertive team members usually don’t speak up even if they have good ideas. 

You end up with Concept 1 and Concept 1A — not much variety. In our creative process, structure gives everyone an equal chance to speak, but more importantly, it gets more ideas on the table quickly so the real work of fine tuning a great concept can begin.

With structure, process, and more people involved, the chances of developing some really stellar concepts just keep increasing. Typically, our goal is to present at least two to three solid creative concepts per project.  (Our record is 12 from just two sessions!) 

And there’s one more bonus. The more often the big group participates, the more practice and experience they all get in understanding, identifying and helping to create great creative concepts. You’re developing your team and some great creative work all at the same time!

Blue Marble is a B2B video agency headquartered in Atlanta, GA, with a 30-year track record of creating strategic, brand-moving videos that hit it out of the park for clients like SAP, the State of Georgia, Manhattan Associates, Sage, Verizon, Georgia Pacific, AT&T and many more.  From brand manifestos to new product rollouts to customer support videos, we use the unique power of the medium to create an emotional connection with your viewer. Clients come to us for our award-winning creative — and then come back for our easy-to-work-with attitude and bullet-proof video production process.

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