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How to Conduct a Brainstorming Session

by Steve McNamara  |  
February 5, 2002

Many brainstorming sessions are not as productive as they could be, typically because they are poorly conceived, planned or managed.

Here's a proven way to trigger imaginative solutions. And although we use marketing and advertising examples, this method can work for any creative endeavor.

If you find it too structured or time consuming, just take the wisdom, leave the workings, and make it work for you.

1) Write a clear, focused objective.

Write a one sentence focus statement that defines what you want to accomplish. Be specific. If your focus statement is too ambiguous, too general, people won't know where to start. Print this statement as large as possible, then stick it on the wall or easel so everyone can see it during the session.

Some examples:

"What events can Fila sponsor to position the brand as fashionable athletic wear?"

"What are some inexpensive offers that will get college students to open an account at Bank of America."

"What are 3 ways to bring the Whizz Mints brand personality to life in our ads?"

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Steve McNamara is a freelance ad guy and the publisher of He has been a creative director and copywriter at JWT, BBDO, and, on the client side, at Capital One. Reach him at

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