In my ministry context, brainstorming is part of the regular meeting routine.  I participate in brainstorming ideas for Adult Ministries, Creative Arts, Student Ministries, Special Events, Curriculum, Large Group, and Series Ideas.  Some sessions are great, others are feel like a waste of time.  So I’ve become a student of the brainstorming process and I work really hard to make the sessions I lead the best possible.  I elaborated on Daniel Pink’s five rules for brainstorming just a few days ago, but I wanted to share my additions to the list.

If you recall from the original post, I served at a church where we had a Monday morning update with the entire pastoral staff.  Our senior pastor would ask if anyone had any notes over the weekend and total silence kicked in. Tumbleweed rumbled across the conference table.  Crickets chirped.  Even after prompting us, there was an uncomfortable silence that arrested the entire room.  That experience inspired my first addition to the brainstorming rules list.

Ask New Questions.  Part of the problem with our team having a good discussion every Monday morning was that the question was old and tired.  Think of ways to frame brainstorming afresh.  It’s not good enough to say “What do you we for Event X this year?” or “How should we decorate this year?”  You’ve already asked that question and unless the makeup of your team is radically different, they have already answered that question with their best stuff.

Invite Key Volunteers.  I always invite people who will be part of the implementation of the ideas to brainstorm with the “creatives.”  It helps them buy-in early and their contributions to the discussion will provide a necessary perspective for the entire team.  I always plan my brainstorming meeting times around the schedules of the key volunteers I want input from and then I ask the staff.

Define the Box.  The worst thing you can tell a creative person is “Do whatever you want.”  You might think that gives them freedom but it is a complete creativity drain.  For our summer camp I defined the box in four areas: Time/Schedule (we only have so many minutes for our large group), Budget (we only have so much money), Look/Feel (this is what our team has decided on to guide what this creative environment will look like – I always put up pictures of the logo, design elements, and promotional materials), and Content (we have already decided what we are going to teach, so here you go).  Defining the Box will unleash greater creativity because you will get more ideas you can use.

I hope these rules help frame better brainstorming discussions for you and your teams in days to come.