Advice to hold onto great ideas from your brainstorms

“Please place your telephone in ‘cellular phone jail’ earlier than you’re taking your seat!”

This was one thing my groups heard me say typically throughout my time as head of innovation and creativity at Disney. And I took it very critically. “Cellphone jail” was no cute euphemism; I drew an actual spot on the ground with a dry-erase marker. My very own telephone was at all times “captured” as the primary prisoner, frown emoji and all.

I used to be adamant about my colleagues giving up their cell telephones. It despatched a sign to every attendee telling them it’s not sufficient to be bodily current on this room—you should be mentally and emotionally current, too. I’ve talked earlier than about how signaling is likely one of the 4 keys to unlocking higher brainstorming periods. And with one thing so simple as a “cellular phone jail,” I reset the tone of the whole assembly. By doing so, I used to be in a position to constantly domesticate progressive ideas.

If you’d like to leverage the ability of signaling and nurture the perfect ideas from your groups, think about these factors earlier than your brainstorms.



That title discipline on your calendar invite? It wields extra energy than you’ll be able to probably think about. “Quarterly gross sales presentation” doesn’t precisely jolt you to life, proper? Your group in all probability feels the identical. The phrase “presentation” indicators to attendees that you simply’re going to discuss, and so they’re going to zone out.

Why not sign the tone you’re looking for from the very starting with the title of your assembly? At Disney, we gave our brainstorming conferences a contemporary spin by calling them “artistic sofa” periods. Anybody may share examples of creativity they’d seen exterior the leisure business within the final month, and also you’d be amazed what number of ideas we rolled with that tied again to these periods. In addition to this, I host a great deal of digital “webinizers,” or on-line coaching workshops (as a result of let’s face it, who truly desires to attend one other webinar?).


Whereas seemingly innocuous, the convention desk in your assembly room additionally indicators that this can be a state of affairs to be judged, which is ok if you happen to’re competing for a document deal on nationwide tv. However if you happen to’re making an attempt to nurture great ideas from your group, you want to sign that you simply’re all working towards a standard objective.

By creating an area devoted to expansionist (or divergent) pondering, you sign you’re on the lookout for moonshot ideas. Discover a place to arrange a small circle of chairs all dealing with each other, or take your assembly exterior and sit collectively on some grass. By eliminating tables and different obstacles that separate you from your group, you’re signaling a collaborative surroundings—not a judgmental one.

This is also so simple as inviting native artists to paint a “greenhouse” area, take away any boardroom tables, and adorn utilizing a inexperienced theme. Identify the room The Greenhouse, and its predominant use may very well be to develop and nurture expansionist ideas.


Even in group brainstorming periods, there’s normally info that wants to be introduced firstly. However as we mentioned earlier, shows ship the mistaken sign to your group, inviting them to zone out as you ramble on. With this, strive rethinking the way you current info.


The most effective signaling methods I realized throughout my time at Disney was one developed by Walt Disney himself. A perpetual storyteller, Disney turned each presentation he gave right into a journey. By inserting any supplies he wished to share along the walls, he may actually stroll by ideas along with his group.

In doing so, Disney went from presenting an concept that may instinctively be judged to constructing an concept collaboratively with whoever was within the room. His concept abruptly turned their concept, all as a result of they labored on it collectively as they traversed the room.


Language has energy and that means, particularly when it comes to signaling. In my consulting expertise, I can say with certainty that almost all companies kill ideas means too shortly. Ideas are like two similar-looking seeds: Typically, there’s no means to inform which one is a flower and which is a weed till they begin rising.

To keep away from killing ideas too shortly, use particular language that indicators desired conduct. For instance, in periods the place my objective is to generate as many new ideas as doable, I often remind everybody that we’re inexperiencedhousing ideas, not green-lighting them. This removes stress and opens folks up to share ideas they usually wouldn’t.

One other highly effective language sign is “sure, and . . .” A standard instrument in improv comedy is the idea of, “sure, and . . .,” which prevents ideas from dying prematurely. To implement it inside your firm, instruct a room that “sure, and . . .” is the one acceptable response. For instance, if somebody suggests providing a 90-day free trial, as a substitute of receiving an idea-killing response (“no, that’s too costly”), your group should nurture it as a substitute (“sure, and we may construct a advertising funnel that follows up after 90 days”).

Relaxation guarantee, your group has great ideas. Sadly, many by no means see the sunshine of day. With just a few strategic indicators, you’ll be able to dramatically change the tone of your subsequent assembly, creating an surroundings that cultivates the perfect ideas your group has to provide.

Duncan Wardle, previously vp of innovation and creativity on the Walt Disney Firm, launched his artistic consulting firm iD8 & innov8 to assist firms embed a tradition of innovation and creativity throughout their whole group.