Article Art by Juliet Towner

Non-Political Brainstorming

Posted by Stephen Brewster on September 01, 2012.

Author: Stephen Brewster

We enter the room for the brainstorming meeting.

We know there’s an expectation to be our creative best and deliver amazing ideas…because we are a “creative person”.

We feel the insecurity of actually sharing those ideas…what if they get rejected?

What if people think the ideas are cheesy? What if I’m a fraud? Worse, what if my ideas are ignored?

This is the brainstorming dilemma. How do you pull the very best ideas from artists that may be hesitant to share them? How do you keep politics or insecurities from tainting the creative process? How do you create a safe brainstorming environment?

Everyone has his or her own pallet to pull from. Different experiences, different backgrounds, different data that has entered their system over the years. We constantly live with what we have done, what we are doing, and what we dream of doing someday. There’s a constant assimilation of experiences that make up our creative toolbox. Everyone has one; some people just use theirs more often than others.

And with that tension – the tension of our DNA being attached to each one of our ideas – the meeting starts.

As leaders we have a responsibility to help others become comfortable enough inside the boundaries of our meetings to share.

As leaders we have a responsibility to help others become comfortable enough inside the boundaries of our meetings to share. Without creating this security we’ll never get to the raw and real ideas that can move our art and church forward creatively. But how do we create this type of atmosphere?

1. Set the expectation.

Expectations are huge. Setting them sets everyone up to win. Clarify what we are after and what we are trying to accomplish. Let everyone know that, of all the ideas that are shared today, only so many can be used. That does not mean that an idea is bad, it just means it might not be functional for this series, project, or campaign. Take ownership of this fact by setting the expectation at the beginning of the meeting.

Alert those in attendance that every idea is being captured and cataloged. But the reality is that not all of our ideas from this meeting will be used on this series. However, there is the potential that we may be able to use them on other projects and we are thankful for them being shared. Finally, clarify the fact that the best idea for this series or campaign is the one that will win and has nothing to do with where it originates.

2. Affirm ideas.

With each idea shared, find a way to affirm that idea. “Yes, and” is a great plan to convert even the most abstract ideas into function. When people feel affirmed in their ideas they become increasingly more likely to share the next idea.

When people feel affirmed in their ideas they become increasingly more likely to share the next idea.

3. Recognize ideas.

Often the timid dreamers in the room get overshadowed by the boisterous dreamers. This does not mean that their ideas are less valuable. It just means their amplifier may not be as loud. Recognize and make sure that every idea is documented. It is a simple exercise that gives permission for people to keep sharing.

4. Expound on ideas.

At times, as you feel out the room, you’ll feel the tension of those who could end up feeling dismissed or disenfranchised. Lean into these instincts. When ideas are shared, make them part of the conversation. Expounding on ideas often makes that one idea replicate into several ideas and give confidence that the next idea should be shared.

When ideas are shared, make them part of the conversation.

5. Confront the issue.

As hard as we try, there will be people who end up upset from time to time. “You didn’t use my idea” is code for “I think my ideas are better than everything else we talked about”. The truth is, too often there’s no context for the rest of the variables around these series and projects. The ego of an artist at times passes the logic of the artist. When this happens, hard conversations are necessary. Honesty is the great equalizer. Being honest will expose the truth that can then set us all up to win the next time around.

As leaders of these meetings, we have to be farmers of ideas, cultivators of ideas, and directors of the room – and even the emotions in the room. Like a symphony director learns to navigate her orchestra, it is our responsibility to navigate the egos, pulse, and emotions of those attending our creative meeting. Pull the best ideas, direct the conversation the right direction, and give permission to the people to share the ideas God has given them. Creating a safe place for dreamers to dream is a huge part of this process.

The truth is that there is a very select group of people who are ever going to be upset about their ideas not being used. More likely people won’t share their greatest ideas because they are scared. The anger of an idea not being used is driven by agenda and pride. But the fear that keeps us from sharing our best ideas is a trap to keep us from being our creative best. Give permission to creativity.

About the Author

Stephen Brewster | T w
Creative Arts Pastor at Cross Point Community Church. Passionate about creativity, leadership, church and how those live together. Dad and husband.

1 Comment

  1. Great post Stephen. Love your stuff on creativity. Could you ever video record a brai storming session for us to see on Vimeo or something? That would help visual learners like me even more! Thatnks for all you do and see you at Story Chicago.


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