How to run a brainstorm or ideation 1: before

This is the first part of a three-piece series called Brainstorm Basics, which aims to help you generate and develop ideas when there is little time and money at your disposal.

Some people say “ideas are cheap”, which has some truth to it. But we all know that coming up with creative ideas and solutions is essential for staying ahead of the curve. Regardless of whether you are a start-up or a big organisation, we need new thinking to keep up with the constant disruption brought upon us by new tech and business models.

We also know that coming up with ideas isn’t hard; coming up with ones that actually land in impact is the tricky bit. You know, the ideas that make your customers’ world a bit better so they are willing to invest in it, be it money, attention or excitement.


At The Magic Sauce, we get requests to get clients to come up with new thinking around their business, whether that is creating an exciting vision and strategy, new business models, congruent communication, a smooth supply chain or a culture that fosters creative thinking and doing. From having run hundreds of projects, big and small, we have seen that for ideas to have impact, a range of things need to be in place before and after. However, every now and then we get briefs that read a bit like this:

We are company X. We are planning a workshop next week that aims to deliver A, B, C, D, E, F, G and a bit of H. The workshop will be attended by [a million people from top to bottom and left to right]. As part of that, we are looking for an external company to run a creative session that delivers ideas for [fill in]. Please send us a proposal and your rates. Thanks.”

Errr, we tend to steer away from last-minute ad-hoc facilitation. Could we come up with a bunch of creative solutions? Most likely. Would they land in impact? Hard to say if we don’t do due diligence beforehand. We tend to push back and explain that before getting into ideas, we would need clear on expectations and deliverables, understand the challenge, the people and landscape surrounding it, a project plan to implementation, testing criteria, etc.


We hate seeing people get excited about generating a gazillion of crazy ideas – the crazier the better – only to find out none of them were implemented. So, to increase your chances of getting it right, we have put together a video that outlines the things do before an ideation or brainstorm if you only had a week and zero budget.


The key to any creative project is to really understand the brief. Far too often we are so eager to jump at solutions that we miss out on many things we would not have if we had spent time immersing into and challenging the brief. After all, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

Getting the brief right is one of the hardest things to do. A generalized, generic brief is likely to lead to average creative performance, so it doesn’t invite scrutiny. That is why you need to not take it at face value, but rather challenge it. This is a good time to ask child-like questions like why, what, where, who, when, how, etc.

Creativity needs a bit of focus and this is a way to get that.


Now that you understand the brief and know what needs to be delivered, you plan your session and run through everything as if it was already happening. This is for a variety of reasons: first, because facilitation is tough. You have a million things to juggle, so to have a backbone of a plan will help you stay on track. Second, once you have run through something once, the next time will be easier. Third, by planning and doing a dry-run, you will inevitably think of things you had not thought of before. These will all make sure your session is smooth and you rig for success.

For a bit more detail, have a look at the video. We’ll share with you a few straightforward tools (which you can download here and here) to understand the brief, get alignment and plan your session.

Now go do that.

We work closely with you and carry out research to understand your needs and wishes.