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There may not be an industry that worships and chases the coveted ‘idea’ more than us in advertising. Although creativity flows through every facet of our lives, we in the biz rely on it to shape and inform every aspect of what we produce as an agency. Naturally, then, the process of fostering this creativity and generating ideas — the timeless brainstorm — is of the utmost importance. With this in mind, we were recently inspired by an article from the Harvard Business Review, which talked about research findings for how to improve the quality of brainstorming sessions.

First off, the science shows that brainstorming groups tasked with focusing on quantity (as opposed to quality) achieved better results on both fronts. So don’t overthink it — just say it!

Moreover, studies have found that when members in a brainstorming group share an embarrassing story, results, again, are materially improved. It’s hypothesized that these preliminary expressions of vulnerability and candor lower inhibitions and help open the floodgates for creativity. It also means that, by the time you get down to work, everyone will have had a good laugh (or two, or three).

Armed with this knowledge, we set about creating the ‘Idea Time’ card to share with members of our team, clients and collaborators. These cards serve to remind everyone how to work together during a successful idea generation session by listing some of the proven best practices. Additionally, we wanted to make something tangible, as real objects can sometimes carry more weight than virtual ones, like emails or wikis. Lastly, the smooth glossy finish means they can reflect light and act as a signal of sorts, in case we ever all get trapped in the office and require rescuing.

In fact, through this process, we’ve been inspired, and are now envisioning a whole of deck of cards with guidelines, suggestions and helpful information that we could build out over time and share with our team.

Without further ado, here are the nine points on each Idea Time card:

  • Start by having everyone share an embarrassing story
  • Share every idea that comes to mind
  • Aim for quantity, not quality
  • Don’t just say it, explain it
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Avoid criticism
  • Stay focused
  • Ask everyone to contribute
  • And if you get stuck, restate the problem and try again

And of course, since we’re in the middle of a rebrand, we added only a hint of the Starburst logo.

Our new Idea Time cards.

Our new Idea Time cards.