5 Elements of a Successful Brainstorm

A new approach to the traditional brainstorm

Sometimes brands struggle with “thinking outside the box.” Many times the problem lies in recycling the same ideas over and over–until you’ve run yourself into a brainstorming rut.

So where to start when bringing about innovation and inspiration? One part of that process is pulling different ideas from the company together in one place.

Enter the Visioning Workshop, inspired by World Cafe. Essentially, the World Cafe model brings people together in a casual setting and allows them to visually explore their ideas and create a work-flow that is diverse and productive.

Each company has a different dynamic. Some groups may not respond well to this type of setting. However, we found that despite the different backgrounds of our guests, everyone came together to form a most interesting final product.

Here are five elements that helped make our Visioning Workshop a success:

5 Elements of a Successful Brainstorm

1. The guest list: Mix it up

We invited employees from several departments, members of the Los Angeles County Fair Association (LACFA) board and leaders of the surrounding community together for some good old-fashioned brainstorming with a unique twist. The result? A (literally) colorful mish-mash of ideas for the future of Fairplex.

visioning workshop world cafe Our workshop took place at McKinley’s Farm, adding to the relaxed atmosphere

More diversity among guests brings more diversity in ideas and collaboration. People that wouldn’t ever discuss ideas or have a conversation during a normal work day are placed together specifically for that purpose.

2. Invite new ideas with a casual setting

We began our event with an al fresco lunch on our urban farm. Guests had the opportunity to try our summer seasonal menu, mingle with each other and relax after a morning spent at the office. Halfway through the meal guests were brief on future trends that would apply to our organization (demographics, industry, technology, transportation, education and our consumer and B2B clients.) 

By the time the brainstorming portion came up, guests had warmed up to each other, bellies were filled and thinking caps were on.

3. Gather content effectively
When you have 50+ brains at work it can be hard to accumulate everyone’s ideas. Have one person–typically the host–follow the pattern of ideas and strategies, taking notes and summarizing after each session.

Guests were grouped randomly and assigned to a certain table (4-6 people per table.) Our “hosts” manned each table, explained what their topic was and then let guests take the lead in the form of drawing, list making, debating and visioning.

Visioning Workshop May 2013

After 15 minutes, groups dispersed and went to different tables (again, randomly) and delved into a new topic with new people. This process was repeated a total of three times. Some ideas carried from one table to another while others were built upon and expanded by the next group taking over.

Visioning Workshop May 2013

Sorting the ideas in this way is easy and fun.

4. Let hierarchy die

Each table was divided randomly. A mixture of board members, company executives, managers and staff were brought together to come up with possible futures for Fairplex. No ideas were considered “bad” and each member at the table was encouraged to share their opinions, no consequences to follow.

5. Relax & enjoy

One of the best parts of the afternoon was seeing people enjoying themselves. They liked collaborating with other brains. They liked having a say in the next decade of an organization they care about. As I walked around each table, I picked up bits of conversation and plenty of unique and smart ideas that I would have never thought of by myself. Taking away the formality of a conference room and having team members literally draw out their ideas on the table brought an energy that was inspiring to see.

Further details on the World Cafe model can be found at theworldcafe.com

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