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Brainstorming Great Creative: MKP’s Secret Sauce

Here at MKP, brainstorming is a big part of what we do. And over the years, we’ve developed a few important techniques and guidelines that have helped us tremendously. Try a few of these the next time you gather a group to kick around ideas. We’re confident they’ll help you too, no matter what project your next brainstorming session may be for!

1. Take “No Bad Ideas” to the next level.

I’m sure you’ve heard the familiar old saying at the start of a brainstorming session, “There are no bad ideas here.” That’s a fine sentiment, but in practice it really doesn’t buy you much when a real clunker is suggested, except a bunch of people rolling their eyes and muttering, “No bad ideas, I guess!”

Instead, take a page out of the Improv playbook and try building on promising kernels from all the ideas that are thrown at you. There’s a great training game for improv artists called “Yes, and…” It’s a game where participants are required to build on whatever the last person said, challenging each other to keep building a group-improvised story through a series of unexpected twists and turns. Take the same approach in your brainstorm and look for ways to move ideas forward, no matter how improbable they may seem at first. It will take you down some strange little alleyways sometimes, but that’s where many of the most innovative thoughts are usually hiding!

2. Write down everything

When we brainstorm, our project manager on the assignment usually takes the role of scribe, writing down every idea that’s aired. And we mean everything! We do this for good reason.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve finished a brainstorming session very excited about our progress, only to review the notes the next morning and scratch our heads, saying, “But what happened to all those GOOD ideas?”  Frequently, it’s because summarized notes didn’t capture what really excited us. Writing down everything often helps to catch the essence of the various notions or feelings that caught our interest. Even more importantly, it gives us more material to try and move forward. And even if you don’t find much of value in all the extra notes you’re reviewing, it usually makes for hilarious reading the next day!

3. Take the blinkers off

As a communications company we often think in terms of headlines and copy flow, but that can be a trap when it comes to brainstorming. Like a horse with blinkers on, we find ourselves plodding down the same narrow roads of “bankspeak.” It’s when we step back and consider other routes that the real breakthroughs happen. What’s the emotional side of our offer? Can we use some kind of a fun analogy to convey the key benefit to customers? Is humor appropriate? Or whimsy? Or unexpected photography?  Or speech balloons? Or doodles and graffiti?  What about talking dogs? When you take your eyes off the immediate goal – in our case, a catchy headline – and start following the tangents instead, that’s when the headlines start falling naturally into place.

4. Keep on paddling

There’s another old saw about brainstorming: “First idea, best idea.” It ain’t necessarily so!

Instead, think of a brainstorming session like you’re all paddling together down a river. Some parts are quick and exciting, with lots of action, and some parts are slow and meandering. Don’t mistake a meandering patch of your journey for running out of ideas. If everybody falls silent for a while, embrace the silence. When nobody’s talking, that means everybody’s thinking (we hope) -- and that’s a good thing!

Sometimes the best ideas pop up in the final minutes of a brainstorming session, as people are shutting down their laptops and checking their emails. Someone suggests an idea half in jest, someone else pounces on it, and all of a sudden that river current starts building again. So always push forward a little more, beyond what appears to be a natural stopping point. In brainstorming, just like life, you never know what kinds of exciting things are right around the next bend.

We hope this helps. And best of luck on your next brainstorming journey!

MKP communications inc. is a New York City-based communications company that delivers spot-on strategy, smart, fresh creative, and flawless execution, exclusively for financial services clients.