How to run a brainstorm or ideation 2: during

This is part two of a three-piece series called Brainstorm Basics. Last week we posted a video about the things to do before an ideation – when you have limited time and money – to make sure you get to output. We shared the how to understand the brief, make a plan and get ready for running the session. Now let’s look at what to do during an ideation.

Anyone who has ever led a creative session knows that there are a million things going on at the same time. It’s a fine balance between managing people’s expectations and energy, having a clearly defined challenge, presenting in a way that is clear and engages, getting people to participate, managing all activities within the time frame, capturing key thinking as you go, and so forth.

Facilitation is a daunting task for many, but definitely something you can learn with time.

To get you started, here are some of the bare essentials to tick off during your session to get to ideas you can take forward:


First impressions are important and it is no different here; how you kick things off will often dictate how the rest of the session will go. Start off welcoming everyone. Most of us have a lot to do, so appreciate people taking the time to participate. Share the bigger picture of why you are there: the purpose. Then a clear picture of where you want to get to in the end, so everyone can see what success looks like. And finally, the plan for the day and the rules of engagement, or the process.


Time for the brief. Or the challenge. Chances are you know more about this than the people in the room. Even if you sent them information before, there is a big chance no one looked at it. It’s nothing personal; just the way these things go.

Far too often we are so eager to jump to ideas without really understanding the challenge at hand, however, if you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there. It is no different here: if you don’t understand the challenge, any solution is the right one. Or the wrong one.

Present the brief in a way that makes sense to you, but give people ample time to digest, discuss and fire back some questions. Not only is this for them to get their heads around the brief, but also, it might uncover things you had not uncovered.

After that, run a quick activity to download what people know about the brief, directly or indirectly. For instance, you could ask people to share all they know about the customers, product, or the competition, or the category, or the market place. Think trends they are seeing, interesting facts they saw, heard or read, etc. The themes that emerge can serve as springboards for ideas. Make sure there is a space where they can put up their starter ideas, as these will most likely come and go as they run through these conversations.


By this time, you will have immersed yourselves into the brief. Keep it conversational and capture key messages, themes and ideas. Invite everyone to generate and, more importantly, capture ideas. An idea not captured is an idea lost. At a minimum, you can use this template to make sure you get some ideas, rather than just thoughts.

As each group is different, find what works for them: individually? In pairs? Small teams? Run a few rounds and keep the pace up. Is the conversation being dominated by two people, while four sit around? Split that group into two smaller ones. Does it look like everyone is bursting with ideas? Ask them to generate and capture ideas individually first, after which you can share these back as stimulus for other ideas.

In between rounds of ideas, you can do a quick shareback and clustering, so you can steer the conversation and make sure you get the spectrum you are looking for. Remind everyone to keep capturing output. Better 6 well thought through and clearly captured ideas than 25 thoughts that were merely mentioned in passing.

We know that by doing these, you are massively upping the quality of your project so that it drives outcome. Remember to download our starter ideas template here.

Next week, we’ll add our final video in this series of Ideation Essentials: what to do right after an ideation.

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