How to never run out of brilliant ideas

At White Camino we’re huge fans of challenger brand thinking, whatever market you’re in and even if you’re number one, keep behaving like a challenger. Leading with your ideas and having a distinctive voice are vital. After far too many years of working in the entertainment industry telling stories about erm... stories, has given us plenty of experience of dreaming up pipelines of great ideas. To get things started we spoke to a few of our compadres to gather  some of their pearls.

Harrison Gates, graphic design supremo of Nine Worthy heads to outer space and back for his creative inspiration. He lives life brainstorming. Storms on Mars last for years apparently, so his tip is to be more Mars. “Be always on, drink in your surroundings from the logo on a truck in the traffic jam, to the big bang display in the science museum and the award winning poster someone else created. Find out how they did it and learn from it.”

Being able to think creatively isn’t just the domain of the creative department, creativity as a skill is useful across every job spec. Sally Brockway, journalist, author and founder of WOW PR has some excellent advice: “Stay curious. Read, watch, listen and learn because everything you experience in life will feed your creativity. Also, don’t overthink. The best ideas pop into your head when you least expect it. If you are really struggling, say to your brain ‘I really need a solution for X or Y’, then stop thinking about it and go for a walk or take 10 minutes to have a cup of tea and gaze out of the window. Nine times out of 10, an idea will emerge. Don’t worry if it’s not brilliant, it’s a start and you can always refine and rework it into something dazzling.”

Laura Lyon, researcher and trend expert at Laura Lyon Trends has figured out her formula. “My best ideas usually come when I am not at a desk - walking in particular works well for me, and then I use a notebook or the notes section on my phone to brain dump ideas.”

Bringing this back to your team who are probably still spending most of their time working remotely, how do you bring those diverse minds together to solve a knotty problem creatively? The answer of course is the trusty workshop. Stick to smaller groups, ideally no more than seven including you the fascilator. 

In case you’re not familiar, the facilitator is there to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, build on ideas, suggest new lines of thinking when it goes deadly quiet and stay within the time frame you’ve set. Don’t be afraid to use the tech, there are some brilliant collab solutions out there which are not only whiteboards but have specific frameworks baked in. I’m loving Mural and Miro.

Before you canter off into the sunset with you’re amazing workshop plans, you may want to skim through this handy checklist so it’s a raving success:

1) First up - Change your State

Absolutley no cynics allowed and perhaps avoid polarising jargon like ‘ideation’ [urgh] when you’re setting things up. In real world situations, the physical environment really helps us to do this. Head out of the office to the park, hire a fun space at a hotel with incredible snacks, or swap meeting rooms with another department - changing up location can genuinely help. If we’re still on zoom, then design special backgrounds for the meeting and deliver freshly baked goods to set the tone.

2) Ice-breaker

The more tactile and sensory you can make this the better. It’s about finding the playful in the most uptight and guarded of characters and staying on the right side of cringe. I have experienced a lot of drama-esque warm ups which can make your toes curl. Here’s a few lighter ideas to get you started:

  • Everyone has a white sheet of A4 printer paper right? They need to create a paper animal in 60 seconds behind their back. No cheating. Compare and contrast!
  • Soundtrack of your life - in advance of the session ask everyone to think about one track which either sums up their life right now or is an all time favourite. Take it in turns to play the first 30 seconds of the track with the team guessing the artist and song.
  • Pop to reveal [IRL] - On a small piece of paper write one little known fact (it must be true) about yourself. “I used to play the french horn in a brass band, I got asked to leave the girl guides or I turned a PR job down at a copper mine in rural China.” Roll up the piece of paper small enough to go inside a balloon, blow it up, bat it about the room. Everyone has to take turns to pick one to pop and guess who’s written it. Guaranteed shriek factor.

3) Set a few boundaries

Without getting all mumsy, you need to be clear on what’s on or off limits. No one can be curious if there’s fear in the room. Some of the wilder and frankly bonkers ideas can trigger some actionable ones. So, you need to create a safe space by laying down a few house rules:

  • No idea is a bad idea in a brainstorm.
  • No grading of ideas is permitted.
  • No judgement.
  • Think big.

If you believe in an idea then there’s always a way to make it happen. These may seem obvious but always worth reminding everyone before you get cracking.

4) Using frameworks and criteria

Be really clear about the agenda and what is the challenge you’re trying to answer. If you want to come up with a brand name or a tagline be crystal clear about what you want the takeout to be. List the criteria; must be onbrand tonally, understood by all English speaking countries and resonate with an Asian audience, work as an icon etc.

If you’re coming up with something totally new there are some incredible frameworks that can steer your thinking. Trendwatching created a great version of the innovation canvas here that links trends to innovation. Which wider trends are impacting your consumer’s worlds and how can you offer a product or service that they value because it makes their lives better?

5) Steal with pride

Perhaps in advance of the workshop you could ask everyone to bring a couple of relevant examples of brand names, straplines, campaign creative that you admire. What could we steal with pride?

It could be something as minor as a font or as major as a narrative construct, starting with the ending or an unusual voiceover choice. Always ask so what? How could we develop that idea and make it our own?

5) Bag of tricks

There may be a point where ideas dry up so it’s always good to break, after all some of the best thinking can show up in those minutes in the bathroom. When everyone’s back in the room have a bag of props ready to use that can inspire totally fresh references, it could be a stapler, a cuddly toy, a piece of broccoli, a toilet roll, a tin of tomatoes, your pet. The more random and unrelated the better, the creative challenge is to then find a link.

6) Capturing the ideas with potential

It’s highly unlikely you’re going to solve everything in the first round but do capture all the ideas and map them against criteria from the original brief. In the next session, collectively grade for feasibility and originality.

7) Ideas are your currency so bank them

Any gems that you gather during your workshop which aren’t right for the brief or a close second bank them for another time, another brand or another life.

Ideas really are everywhere and do make sure the team you’re brainstorming with are diverse in every sense from their backgrounds, seniority, skills and personality types. Celebrate the ideas that are used and keep that ideas bank topped up and accessible to everyone. You’ll all be the richer for it.

If you need any support with your marketing plans, creative thinking or just need a marketing ear, do look me up.