Ideas for effective brainstorming session?
November 12, 2008 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Help me come up with some fun brainstorming exercises and tools for my company's new software product messaging!

The software company I work for is coming out with a new product (I unfortunately cannot disclose further details around this) and I'm hosting a brainstorming session with some creative folks here to kick start the creation of taglines and other product messaging (website copy, sales PPTs, white papers, etc.).

I will be providing my team with a list of the product's benefits, and mini positioning statements for our 4 target buyer persona's.

Please suggest some fun and engaging brainstorming exercises and tools that I can use with a small group (<10) to help formulate taglines and other useful messaging tidbits that could be helpful later on.

One thought I had was to play word association with keywords from the product benefits I'll be giving them.

I don't really have much time or budget (make that NO budget) to put this together so please take that into consideration. Happy to answer any questions that are not related to the specific company/product.

Also, if anybody has good links to resources on hosting these sorts of sessions those would be much appreciated as well.
posted by Elminster24 to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
You could try usingthe brainstorming tool Oblique Strategies , if you have a Mac or access to an iPod touch or iPhone (it's available as a widget or a free download from the App Store on iTunes).
posted by carrienation at 4:25 PM on November 12, 2008

Best tool here is a prototype of your product for the participants to play with.
posted by orthogonality at 4:34 PM on November 12, 2008

A few sixpacks and a relaxed atmosphere. Shoot the breeze (staying on topic is nice, but don't discourage tangents) until someone comes up with something awesome.
posted by potch at 11:33 PM on November 12, 2008

Depends on how many people are in the session. If there are more than 5 or so, I like this process for brainstorming and filtering the results down.

Get a bunch of post-it notes. Have attendees write their ideas, good, bad, silly, etc., on them. Then, hand them up and go through them with the group. Not critically, just in a data processing kind of way. So, say the first one has a theme of "productivity". Stick that on the wall. The next one had a theme of "value". Stick that on the wall next to it. As ideas come along that fit the themes already up there, put them below the ones already up there. When you are done, you will have a bar graph on the wall showing what themes are important. It's slightly game-y, but sometimes it helps to distill themes that are important to work on. It forces people to shift gears a couple of times, and that gear shifting can sometimes spark creativity.
posted by gjc at 5:24 AM on November 13, 2008

From my experience, the best techniques require you to start by not thinking about the product at all.

Everyone gets a huge piece of paper. Each person draws a line on the paper (not straight necessarily, but not a "drawing"). Then you pass the paper to the left and repeat about 4 or 5 times. Then stick the papers on the wall, assign a person to each one and have them write 5 or so words or thoughts inspired by the drawing (give them only 1 minute). Next, give them about 5 minutes to come up with ideas related to the product based off these words as inspiration.

Similar ways to do this:

Have each person write a word on a paper. Pass it to the left and that person writes the first word that comes to mind after reading. Repeat 5 times

Give everyone a wierd doo-dad type thing, just random toys you find around the office. Have them write for 1 minute all the words/phrases that come to mind. This can also be done with random pages from a magazine or stock photos. Then they get 5 minutes to riff off of that in relation to the product.

The key here is not to force people to think about the product, they will do that naturally. At the end of the exercise each person gets a turn reading out their ideas and one person records them all on a large paper everyone can see. Let people jump in and add to the ideas.

Before people leave, give everyone 5 stickers (or they can do it with a pen) and post the large papers with the ideas on the wall and let people "vote" on their own for the best ideas. Take all the ideas and meet with 3 senior people and distill down.

The biggest thing, and most often repeated but rarely adhered to, is to not shoot anything down because it isn't realistic. Some guy might have an idea about orcs and hobbits that makes no sense, but it might trigger a realistic thought in someone else.
posted by dripdripdrop at 4:25 PM on November 13, 2008

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