Before I begin, I want to clarify that I’m not against groups of people sitting together and coming up with ideas, in fact I feel the opposite. What I am against, however, is the way it’s done and who participates.
“Alright, we need to come up with a positioning for that new face cream from the rain forests of Peru. We should ask Mary to sit in, her mother’s Brazilian so she should have some valuable insights. And while you’re at it, tell the guy who sits next to her to join us. You know, that guy with the baldhead, always comes up with classic one-liners? I’m sure he’ll come up with something great.”
Would you invite your doctor to join you at your legal advisor or your architect to sit in on your chat with your financial manager? No? Then why do Mary, her witty bald sidekick and teams of other irrelevant people have to sit in on these meetings when it, to be blunt, has nothing to do with them? We aren’t talking about their specialty so they don’t need to add their five cents worth.
What can also rain on the brainstorming parade is the inevitability of the session becoming a contest where the funniest guy takes all the glory, the loudest guy gets heard and the more senior people kill ideas that aren’t theirs with immediate effect. So what happens to the shy, introverted or more junior team members in these brainstorms? Nothing. Their ideas go nowhere, fast! Imagine how many pearls of creativity never saw the opening of their shells due to this development.
So here’s how it goes: Mr Clever’s idea gets everyone excited, Mr Funny adds his two cents worth and Mr Loud sings its praises. Then all hell breaks loose, four hours are spent exploring and expanding this fantastic direction, the meeting is adjourned and then… The ball drops. Pink elephants with Mexican accents holding guns and smacking each other probably aren’t the right way forward for a save the wildlife fund campaign. But it seemed so clever at the time.
Ok now, let’s brief it into Mr Shy and his art-director. They will give it the time and attention it deserves, go through every angle in great and painstaking detail, brainstorm with a relevant and select group of people and formulate the right way forward.
For a brainstorm to be effective, I believe that they should consist of a small team of specialists who are comfortable with one another and are there for a single purpose. Therefore, if the focus is an advertising campaign, have the advertising creatives in there, no need for the deliveryman at this stage. If it’s a mixed campaign then have digital, advertising and PR in there, the promotional girls don’t need to be included just yet.
We all like to have an entourage. But entourages should be seen and not heard.
Jared Kushner works for ad agency, 0012.