Brainstorming the Right Way


I'm running a new conference this week, called Skip the Grind. It's a specific kind of conference, called a brainstorming conference. I've wanted to do it for years but finally set it up for 2020 and then had to push it back to this week.

The concept of a brainstorming conference came to me after reading and watching stuff about Pixar. It's predicated on a concept called, “plussing.” It's all about saying, “Yes, and…” instead of “no.”

There's no reason to tell you more about this conference because you're not here and it will be better if the participants write their reviews.

But I did think that writing a tiny bit about brainstorming could be helpful to you.

What we normally do

When it comes to brainstorming the normal way, most of us just gather people in a room and throw ideas out to see what sticks. It's bounded chaos. But it's still chaos.

I don't find that helpful, even if it has the chance to come up with a really great idea.

Because it has a far greater chance to make people feel insecure or overwhelmed. If you have to be creative on the spot, it can feel terrorizing. If you hear twenty ideas in a row, it can make you exhausted.

That's what we normally think about, when we're talking about brainstorming.

Brainstorming done the right way

What I've asked this crew to do is not throw out ideas, one after another. Instead, we're doing brainstorming the way I learned years ago.

Imagine each person gets in the hot seat. After a person shares the work they've done (based on frameworks I've shared with them), someone in the group provides some feedback. It's a tweak to what they've heard. It's a new twist or idea.

And then everything changes from what we think of as normal brainstorming. What happens next is that someone else in the group takes that new idea or concept and tweaks it.

That's the plussing I was talking about. It's the “yes, and…” that causes them to come up with another tweak or improvement on the new idea.

And this happens over and over as we move around the circle.

When it's done, another person can start again with a new idea. And then everyone participates by enhancing or iterating on the idea in real time.

Why this works

This works is because you aren't hoping for home run ideas. Instead you get a base hit, and then every iteration moves it forward. As a result, you get a lot further than with a ton of random ideas.

It was a great first day at my new conference. We have two more days of brainstorming. And I really can't wait.

Like I said, I hope this approach helps you.