Staffers at design firm Ideo spit out hundreds of new ideas every day—including the ideas for the Apple mouse and the stand-up toothpaste squeeze tube. So if anyone knows how to conduct a brainstorming session, it’s Ideo.
One thing that’s evident from looking into one of their conference rooms is that you’ve got to get the space right.
Here’s how to set up a room for generating wild ideas:
1. Line the walls in white. Ideo provides whiteboard space and easel-sized Post-it notes for doodling prototypes as ideas pop up.
2. Stock the room with plenty of thick markers. In a robust brainstorming session at Ideo, attendees will generate about 75 to 100 ideas.
Tip: Have the facilitator keep the momentum going by pushing for more ideas, the same way an auctioneer would push for a higher bid. Don’t attempt to evaluate ideas as you go; save that for later.
3. Spot check for open space. Big ideas appreciate a bright, spacious room that allows for standing up and walking around.
“The worst way to do brainstorming is to just sit around and talk,” says Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis.
Tip: Allow people to externalize their ideas. Provide materials that people can manipulate, such as modeling clay.
4. Post stenciled reminders around the room. At Ideo, you’ll see reminders that scream “Defer judgment!” and “Be visual!”
— Adapted from “How to Run a Brainstorming Session,” Venuri Siriwardane, Inc.