Finding the big idea: 10 tips for an effective brainstorm

Roughly a 4 minute read by Kate


We all love a good brainstorm - when everything seems possible and nothing is off the table! But there’s a skill to using brainstorm time efficiently that is often underestimated; if not prepared and run well they can easily become unproductive. So, how do you ensure your brainstorms produce your best and brightest ideas? We like to think we have it down to a fine art…

Collect key information

For any project, there will be requirements that dictate the scale of your project; knowing these in advance is crucial to ensuring your brainstorm produces ideas that are realistic. These details are likely to be things like budget, timescales, and staff resource.

Brief in advance

Very few people come up with their best ideas under pressure, so if you’re leading the session make sure you give everyone time to prepare. We use a briefing template (just one page!) that allows us to share all the top level information without overwhelming people with unnecessary detail. The easiest way to distribute is just to pop it in the calendar invite description!

Come prepared

On the other side of the coin, if you’re an attendee, be courteous! Make time to read the briefing material in plenty of time so you can come to the session with ideas to contribute.

Kick off with context

Even if you’ve provided information ahead of time, chances are the leader of the brainstorm session will have more information or be closer to the project than the other attendees. It’s always a good idea to kick off your brainstorm session by reiterating the briefing material so you can add further context - it may even spark some new ideas!

Provide examples

If you already have an idea of what kind of idea you’re looking for, bring examples to get everyone’s minds moving. For example, if you want an interactive game, share some links to great examples that are already out there. If you’re looking for infographic ideas to nail your SEO goals, give examples of the content you’re trying to beat in Google.

Let everyone have their say

Don’t let voices get lost in the crowd! At Engage we all take the MBTI personality test, so we know that our ‘E’s (extroverts) will naturally be more forthcoming than our ‘I’s (introverts). But it’s important that everyone gets chance to share their ideas, so we often start with each person listing their initial ideas. From here, other suggestions often develop as we find overlaps or recurring themes.

‘No idea is too big’

We follow the ethos that it’s much harder to develop a small idea into something impressive than to scale back a big idea! Therefore we encourage everyone to think big when they come to brainstorms and assume no limitations; sometimes the ‘how’ is easier than you think!

Write everything down

There really is no such thing as a bad idea - inspiration can come from anywhere! But if you don’t keep a list, you risk ideas getting lost or forgotten as the discussion moves along. Make sure you have a notetaker and a large board or screen available so the whole group can see a record of all the ideas as they unfold.

Stay on track

Brainstorms have a habit of diverging if not kept in check, so the leader of the brainstorm has a responsibility to keep everyone focused. While it’s natural to spend more time discussing a promising idea, try to avoid getting too wrapped up in details at this early stage (at the cost of exploring other possibilities) and discourage side conversations between smaller groups.

Leave with a set of actions

At the end of the brainstorm, leave time to summarise the best ideas that have come out of the session and provide a summary of any tasks to be completed from the session. Likely actions are researching the potential of the top ideas, or putting together a pitch deck.

So, now you have the key to all our brainstorming secrets of success. Let’s get the ideas rolling!