Make It Rain: 3 Steps for Productive Brainstorming

As a marketing agency, we’ve got to stay on our toes to deliver a constant stream of new, innovative, and workable ideas to our clients. We can’t just rinse and repeat — we’ve got to come with The Exceptional.

rainOf course, there can be roadblocks and difficulties along the way from any number of aspects — whether design, copy, technology/development, or even general logistical arrangements. Sometimes an obvious solution jumps out, and the ideas just flow. Other times, we just give up use brainstorming techniques to solve existing problems, or to generate new ideas.

Weather Patterns

In the formation of a classic ocean storm, several conditions must be present for the storm to occur. Warm air rising meets cold air sinking and the resulting instability changes the atmospheric pressure. Meanwhile, the winds starts blowing in a big circle, and next thing you know — you’ve got a hurricane. The concept of brainstorming is like that, too.

Brainstorming: Step 1 Calm Waters

To get started, you’ll need a low-pressure zone; a clear place to pull in ideas. If your brain is filled with hundreds of competing thoughts about work and/or life, it will be much more difficult to generate productive ideas.

So…Clear your mind.

Try relocating all those unrelated thoughts, ideas, to-do’s, and appointments to a piece of paper, your favorite productivity app, or a calendar. This should allow you to more easily empty your head.

Still having trouble? Try taking a 10-minute brisk walk, and count your breaths. Visit a nearby park. Heck, just stare at some plants from the warm embrace of your desk*.

Brainstorming: Step 2 Creative Convection

Thunderstorms are formed by the uplifting of warm and humid air. When humid air is lifted, it collides with cold air, which cools and condenses it to form clouds.

You’ve already cleared your mind of extraneous thoughts. Now it’s time to reintroduce some productive friction. It may sound counterintuitive to start with conflict, but the juxtaposition of conflicting ideas can be very stimulating. Start by writing down your goals for the project. Then, in a column beside it, create a set of “anti-goals” — the opposite of what you intend to do. Explore both the set goals and the anti-goals; as the strategies clash, powerful ideas will begin to reveal themselves.

You may find that synthesizing a few opposing methods together can help form the perfect storm. (I use this technique for cooking as well.)

Brainstorming: Step 3 Blow Hard

Now that you’ve got a few good ideas you want to chase, it’s time to get the wind blowing, This is where creativity and practicality come together. In this part of the process, you begin pushing your most compelling ideas forward; fleshing out the details and identifying potential benefits and flaws; sketching out concepts; writing up a sample page of creative content; or testing a few snippets of code.

As you talk and work through a quick mockup, you’ll notice some ideas inevitably fall by the wayside as impossible, impractical, or just plain stupid — but like the clean, sparkly, freshly washed air after a good storm, you’ll be left with one or two effective solutions that will shine warm light on your goals.

*Disclaimer: glassCanopy has NO live plants at our office. Only cut flowers. Seems more humane to give them a quick death rather than the long lingering death of office neglect. But maybe someone in your office has a green thumb.

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