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Brainstorming Sessions |

When Brian Collins, former Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy & Mather, first arrived at the agency, he found his creative team operating in a closed off, uninspiring space. His first order of business was to transform his team’s workspace to inspire collaboration.

With a limited remodeling budget, he painted walls in the hallway black, purchased a few boxes of white chalk and installed simple, metal folding chairs. The result was a creative space that encouraged brainstorming.

Don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. Sublime ideas are born on the unknown road.

The newly painted hallway drew his team members out of their offices and into an open and collaborative environment. The metal chairs actually discouraged people from sitting. During brainstorming sessions, Brian’s team members were more likely to be on their feet, contributing and interacting with each other. Team members could sketch their ideas on the hallway walls, which encouraged open discussion.

Brainstorming Sessions

For maximum potential, brainstorming sessions should be be short and furiously paced. The session’s attendee list should include just enough people to generate a solid base of ideas in a short period of time.

A good rule of thumb is more than five attendees but less than ten. Too many people and you risk losing focus. Delegate one person to take good notes. Number the different ideas which are generated.


A good laugh releases endorphins. A good laugh loosens you up, reduces inhibitions and translates into high energy creativity.


Once you have activated the freedom from inhibition, set out on a path of exploration. Begin generating ideas.


Generate a dozen concepts. Then generate ten more! In this phase, avoid shooting down an idea from the get go. Record it and keep moving along.

Go Nuts

Don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. Sublime ideas are born on the unknown road.


Concentrate the effort on what you are trying to achieve. Try not to segue into unrelated topic matter.


Share ideas. Use “big ears” to listen and build off those ideas. “Hitchhike” ideas. In jazz improvisation, being told you have “big ears” is a compliment. It means that you are able to observe the sounds happening around you and compliment them. Take the ball and run with it.


Take time to let the subconscious wrap itself around these ideas. This is the incubation phase.


Edit down your ideas. Chip away at the excess. Bring it to life!


It is a quality of commitment not quality of emotion.


Be patient with unveiling an idea. Timing is everything.


Keep at it and success will be yours.

Wishing you success with your next brainstorming session.

(Inspired by Sam Harrison, the King of Brainstorming and James Altucher, the Duke of Ideation).

Photo by Taro Taylor from Sydney, Australia [CC BY 2.0]

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