When it comes to planning and executing a brainstorming session, there can be little debate that a clearly defined purpose is the most important factor in the success or failure of the meeting. The next most important thing to consider is “Who are you going to invite?” Constructing a good brainstorm group can be tricky. It isn’t good enough to grab the first few people who walk by your office, ply them with bagels and coffee and demand creative thinking. Ideally, your brainstorm group would represent a broad cross-section of backgrounds and experience levels. However, that isn’t always an available option. At a minimum, anyone you choose to participate in your brainstorm session needs three key things. First, they should have a vested interest in the success of your brainstorm topic. Second, they should be willing to speak up. Finally, they should be able to meet the expectations established in the Brainstorm Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, not everyone is up to the task. So, here are seven characters you’ll want to avoid.
Name: Major Bazooka
Bio: The Major has never met an idea he liked. Whatever it is, he can find a flaw, whether real or imagined. He’ll ramble on about how various ideas will never work, without ever offering a suggestion that might resolve the “problem” he’s found. In fact, he’s so busy shooting holes in other people’s ideas that he can’t even find time to offer up an idea of his own.
Name: Ma Bell
Bio: Nobody is more popular than Ma Bell. In fact, she’s so popular that she can’t even put her phone down to brainstorm solutions for your meeting. Between the text messages, phone calls and tweets, she might throw out a kernel here and there, but don’t depend on her for many big ideas.
Name: Mr. In Love With His Own Ideas
Bio: This guy never had an idea he didn’t like. He likes his ideas so much that he’ll keep bringing them up whether they’re on-strategy or not. If you let him, he’ll dominate the brainstorm session. Through sheer commitment to his ideas, he will eventually sway the group to believe that the solution he thought of in the first 5 minutes of the brainstorm is the one and only solution.
Name: The Big Boss
Bio: All bosses aren’t bad brainstorm participants, but The Big Boss isn’t your ordinary boss. First, this isn’t his first rodeo. He’s seen it all and done it all, and now he wants to tell you about it. Second, HE’S THE BOSS, and he deserves some respect. So, you better listen to his ideas above all others and make sure you write them down. Did he mention, he’s the boss?
Name: Sir Didn’t Read The Brief
Bio: A brainstorm wouldn’t be a brainstorm without a few wild ideas, but Sir Didn’t Read The Brief takes things one step too far. It isn’t that his ideas are too wacky, but they just aren’t on strategy. Instead of doing a little prep work, he decided to shoot from the hip. He’ll hit something, but it may not be anything you can use.
Name: Mr. I’m Just Here For The Food
Bio: At times the easiest to identify, Mr. I’m Just Here For The Food will usually send a menu-related email the day before the meeting. Even before the brainstorm starts, it’s clear that he has one thing on his mind, and it isn’t the topic of your brainstorm. He’ll hang around and throw out some ideas, but as soon as the food is gone so is he.
Name: Captain Idea Recycler
Bio: At one point in time, Captain Idea Recycler was probably a heavy hitter in any brainstorm he attended. However, at some point in time, he got off track. Whether he lost his edge or just got lazy, the Captain can be counted on for one thing – he brings the same few ideas to every meeting. He typically starts his pitch with a familiar saying, “Back when I was working on [INSERT BIG NAME CLIENT HERE], we had this really successful program that…”
Name: Madame Frostbite
Bio: If you held your brainstorm on a blacktop parking lot on the hottest day of the year on the equator, Madame Frostbite would still be chilly. As soon as the brainstorm starts, she’ll ask if anyone else is cold. Without even waiting for an answer, she’ll begin to adjust the thermostat until she finds the room comfortable. The only problem – everyone else can’t think because they’re too busy sweating. Of all the people on this list, you probably shouldn’t automatically exclude Madame Frostbite. She may have unsurpassed enthusiasm and stellar ideas. If that’s the case, invite her. Just make sure she brings a sweater.
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