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Senior Correspondent

The thing I hate about brainstorming is the lack of follow through. Brainstorming, without follow through, is an irritating brain drizzle.

The Challenge:

Nothing kills a what-might-we-do conversation more than adding how-might-we-do-it? Brainstorming begins with a commitment to inaction.

Divide and Conquer:

Successful brainstorming requires two meetings. The first meeting is a what-might-we-do meeting. The second is a how-might-we-do-it meeting. Separate the what from the how to maximize creativity and follow through.


  1. Limit the focus of your first session to one important question.
  2. Explain what you aren’t doing.
  3. Focus on “what” not “how.” Let your team know that the “How” conversation is next week. 
  • ​Form small groups, but stay in the same room so people can hear each other. Set a limit of five people for each group. Small groups create environments of participation and ownership.
  • Give each group seven minutes to brainstorm around the question.
  • When the seven minutes are up, have each group report their results.
  • Send everyone back to their small group for another short brainstorming session. Give them six minutes to extend their list of ideas. Have them report and record results. A feeling of competition between groups keeps creative juices flowing.
  • Include everyone in a ten minute brainstorming session.
  1. Don’t defend any ideas.
  2. Steer conversation away from the how.
  3. Celebrate wacky ideas.

Several short bursts of creativity are better than one long.

Assignment: Send everyone away with the simple assignment to choose five ideas and write out three ways they might work.


  1. Record the ideas that each person chose to expand.
  2. Make note of over-lap.
  3. Choose the top three ideas and ask, “what’s the next step?”
  4. Look for someone to champion each idea.
  5. Define what follow-through looks like.


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