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  • Writer's pictureKaylie Dugan

Learn the Secret Sauce of Effective Brainstorming

Most businesses practice an old – even archaic – form of brainstorming. They put a cohesive team in a room and wait for great ideas to appear. This is not close to enough because they haven’t tapped into the secret sauce.

What is it? The human capacity for collective brilliance. It needs a few things to flourish, and that’s my topic today. Add them and you’ll be amazed at the increased effectiveness of your ideation sessions.


Invite a variety of people to the session. A few members of your team are OK, but consider adding sales, scientists, media folks, and even a creative person completely outside the usual cast of characters. Agency partners are great, as well. And best of all, ask a few consumers along for the ride.


To tap into inherent brilliance, we need to stimulate the brain to think outside the usual boundaries. I use our proprietary Better Ideaz™ creativity tools. They allow the brain to do what it’s really good at - connecting things. The tools ask for connections to watermelons, balloons, monster trucks, hinges, diapers, marathons … any number of stimuli. That’s nourishing food for collective brilliance.


I find the best ideation comes from people working in pairs. When five or six dyads are talking at the same time, there’s a creative buzz in the room that makes brainstorming more effective. Change the composition of the pairs frequently to keep the process fresh. A dyad working with a creativity tool is magic.


We always use Graphic Recorders to take down the ideas. They are skilled professionals who work on wall-sized pieces of paper to make the ideas come to life. How? By combining words and pictures, colors, and icons. The notes are eye candy that automatically taps into the creative brilliance inherent in your team.


It’s important to identify the high-potential ideas while allowing participants to remain in their right brain [the creative side]. After recording 20-25 ideas, I give participants a strip of dots and invite them up to the idea wall. They vote for their favorites without any criteria other than they like it. Placing multiple dots indicates ideas they really like. Then we repeat the process a few more times. After a half-day session, most teams generate 60-100 new ideas, and about a dozen they really love.

6. FUN!

Brainstorming is meant to be fun. (If you are looking for a fun game to boost your group's energy, check out this.) Start first thing in the morning before work tasks take over. Dress casually, eat sugar, laugh, be outrageous. Fun enhances our capacity for collective brilliance … which is the Secret Sauce.

If you are ready to learn more about mastering effective brainstorming techniques, check out these three books I highly recommend. They helped me launch my career as a market researcher and brainstorming facilitator. Hiring a professional agency, like Driven to Succeed, to help facilitate is a smart way to ensure you'll get the very most from your company's next brainstorming session. Contact us and we'll help you get started.


Driven to Succeed is an award-winning global market research and consulting firm that compliments data (the “what”) with empathetic research and conversations (the “why”) to uncover actionable insights so mid-market companies and Fortune 500 brands can innovate and grow. Our team has walked a mile in your shoes with over 100 years of experience in Market Research, Marketing, and P&L Management for global iconic brands and startup companies across diverse B2B and B2C industries. Learn more at

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