Nothing, absolutely nothing in my line of work is as much fun as a great ideation session. You're in the moment, sparks are flying, your brain's going a mile a minute. The friendly competition from a diverse range of bright, talented colleagues stimulates original ideas that you never thought you could have.
I've participated in and facilitated countless ideations over the course of my career. The quality of the participants, the personality and energy of the facilitator, and the range of creative exercises all factor into the success of the session.
But I have found that heeding the following five fundamental guidelines will exponentially boost the odds of having a productive session.
1. Jump in
Everyone gathers, gets caffeinated, eats bagels, and socializes. Today won't be a typical day at work, and everyone knows it. People are happy to be away from their desks, and they look forward to having some fun as they solve the problems of the world.
The last thing you want to do is kill that buzz, but all too often that's just what happens. The innovation firm you've brought in to facilitate spends the first half hour explaining its process and why it's so wonderful. Like a Mike Tyson blow to the solar plexus, that tedious infomercial sucks the energy out of the room.
That is either preceded or followed by a brand manager or researcher grounding everyone in the fundamentals of the category and brand. Boring! By now it's 10:00 or 11:00 AM, and you've done nothing but douse the creative flame.
Ideation is supposed to be a right-brain process that requires participants to rely on creative instincts rather than logic, and that's exactly what it should be.