Year-End planning can be fun? You’ve got to be kidding.

I’m not.  If you bring creativity to your year-end planning a) you’ll probably come out with better ideas and b) you’ll have some fun.

At The Next Level, we use creativity to develop marketing strategies and tactics as well as ads, brochures, commercials and web sites.  You can put that same creativity into your planning process by using one of the key creative tools we use— brainstorming.

Here’s how it’s done.

First of all, don’t fly solo. Group brainstorming is easier, more enjoyable and more productive.  Group dynamics are stimulating and one person’s ideas often kick off ideas in others.

The leader (preferably one who’s done brainstorming before) launches a stimulating statement or question.  Example: How would our company change next year if Harry Potter was CEO?  Then the group then starts throwing out as many ideas as they can.

Here are a few tips on how to get the most from your brainstorming session:

Tip #1.
Ditch your desk. A survey determined where people get their best ideas— “At my desk”  didn’t even make the top ten.  Meet at someone’s home, in a park. Wherever you go, the point is to get out of your workplace.  New ideas come more easily in a new environment.

Tip #2

Write Everything Down. Record every single idea.  There’s plenty of time to refine, edit, discard…later on. Remember, there’s no such thing as a bad idea.  Madame  Curie had a bad idea that turned out to be radium.  Richard Drew had a bad idea that turned out to be Scotch Tape.

Tip #3

No Creativity Killers. Don’t allow judgments or negative comments. No “It can’t be done” “It’s too expensive” or “That’s crazy”.  They shut people down and stifle new ideas.  Judgments themselves can be bad ideas…like when in the ‘70s a senior executive at Digital Equipment Company said, “No one will ever need a computer in their home.”

Tip #4:

Stretch your mental muscles.  Think outside the box.  Don’t edit yourself.  At The Next Level, we put up a sign at our creative sessions that says, “It’s safe to be stupid.”  And don’t be afraid to fail.  Someone once said, if you never fail, you’re just not trying hard enough.

Tip #5

Look at the problem through different eyes. To get beyond predictable solutions, get out of your own mind-set. Imagine how someone else might solve the problem, say Lucille Ball. Or Superman.  Ideas that seem crazy at first often trigger breakthroughs that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

Tip #6

Find new ways to ask questions. Instead of asking “how can we sell more widgets?” ask, “what are all the ways a client can possibly use our widgets?” The key word here is “possibly”.  Don’t limit answers to the predictable. And instead of asking “where can we find new clients?” ask “name all the companies that can use our widgets?” This may bring out a new market segment you never thought of before.

After you’ve plastered the walls with lots of wild and crazy ideas, go back and edit, refine and evaluate. Pick out the best few ideas, analyze them and build on them. You’ll be amazed at how nutty-at-first-glance ideas can morph into productive new directions.

Let the brains storm.

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