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Brainstorm Technique: Paper Passing

April 6, 2011

*apologies for the craptastic picture. My camera (nonsmart)phone is shit.

This afternoon I ran a VERY successful brainstorm session! It helped that I had really great contributors in the room. Since I have received quite a number of hits from my last brainstorm post, I thought I’d share a bit more about Brainstorming, when I run the meetings.

To remind you of the first few steps:

  1. Information Stage: Meeting date will be assigned. Creative Brief will be e-mailed and will be read the day prior to the meeting.
  2. Preparation Stage: Tasks may be assigned and will be due prior to the meeting — things like word lists, coming with 3 concepts, reviewing old, collected themes to find inspiring things, etc.
  3. Brainstorm Meeting Stage: Will commence and last 30-40 minutes. After 40 minutes it has been proven that the productivity of the meeting goes down significantly and the freshness dissipates. Plan a secondary meeting if you don’t feel like you got enough out of the first, but don’t push it. You want everyone to stay fresh, alert, and attentive.
    **Don’t forget to always have a warm-up! It helps to clear everyone’s mind from the task they were just doing, get the focused, and start everyone on the same page.

The warmup for this session: I found this page with Brain Teaser Worksheets and downloaded 2 “Hink Pink” ones. In a “Hink Pink” a hint is provided, and you have to figure out the answer that is made of two rhyming words. For example: Plastic Serpent (Fake Snake), or Penny that’s not flat (Bent Cent). I compiled the two lists and gave the handouts to my participants. Then I manned the white-board (answers in hand), and together they worked to figure out all 20 words within 5 minutes while I scribbled their correct guesses. This got our synonym juices flowing which is really helpful for brainstorms. I will say, I’ve had some failures with crosswords and things that take too much brainpower. So I’ve taken it down a notch to just make sure we get through the game, worksheet, verbal challenge, whatever it is – instead of making it too difficult. I like to build them up in the beginning.

Next, we reviewed our goal: To Come up with the 2011 Tagline for a Bi-Annual Conference relating to a specific branch of Pharmaceuticals.

Sounds super boring, right? Not so much. My co-worker who services the account had drawn up a very informative synopsis of what the challenges of the field were that year, what they were grappling with, and what the incentive was for people to attend. Basically, technology, baby boomers, and the onslaught of senior care in the near future. I had included this in the meeting invite, and she quickly reviewed it again before we really hunker down.

We used the technique of Paper Passing:

Each person in a circular group writes down one idea and then passes the piece of paper in a clockwise direction to the next person, who adds their thoughts. If they cannot think of anything to add, they may ask a question that can be answered by the next person. This continues until everybody gets his or her original piece of paper back. By this time, it is likely that the group will have extensively elaborated on each idea.

Once you have completed the paper passing, you can do one of two things:

  1. Have one person collect all the books, write down ALL the ideas, and compile a list to work from, sorting it out after the meeting (For us, it is either me, as I run the meetings and see this as part of that task, or the account person who will write down the ideas they think are most relevant.)
  2. Have each person read their sheet out loud. Then, have them read it again, and have people chime in with which ideas they think are the strongest, or ideas they’ve had from just hearing the words read out loud.

We read our ideas out loud because our account lead really likes to flush ideas out and talk through the process. I manned the board again and wrote down all our “good” ideas. In the end, we came up with 20 VERY different taglines/concepts, and about 10 spin-offs (which I can’t really say were different enough to count as an original idea.) They ranged from the dreaded (yet always encapsulating) 3 word taglines (Engage. Discover. Grow.) to Navigation/Nautical Themes, to Seeing a Clear Future (Vision Themed), and finally Technology and E-managment and E-ngaging.

There are a few things I LOVE about this technique. Paper Passing creates a bunch of mini-brainstorms, and can go off in any direction, giving you a lot of bang for your time-buck. Everyone has about 1-3 minutes to respond, and has really no pressure! This fosters a good environment for every type of personality on our team… from the shy, non-talkers with little confidence, to the ones who shout people down (I call them “Naysayers”). It is a really great supportive environment, because when you get your book back, you can see how everyone has taken your idea and built a bunch more on top of it… sometimes I really enjoy the visual validation.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 26, 2011 4:22 PM

    That was a great session. I loved the warm up! It’s fun working with such talented and creative people.

    Oh, and love the deals, dives, and drafts line! You could start your own show on the Food network.

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