brainstorms rejected, star chambers recommended

25May07

Step once more unto the breach.

As the astute account planners amongst you will have noticed, Richard Huntingdon has recently posted a persuasive and thought provoking blog regarding his desire to kill brainstorms.

In a nutshell his view could be summarised as an understandable concern that if you round up a group of waifs and strays to contribute to proposing ideas to solve problems, you end up with 99%+ dreadful input. At the end of the day most of the people invited to attend a brainstorm are simply incapable of originating the solution to a particular problem.

I would like to recommend you introduce star chambers instead. A star chamber, correctly implemented, meets two key criteria from my point of view:

1. You invite the brightest talent your money can buy to attend. You then brief them thoroughly and record not only what they say, but also agree actionable plans while the brains are still there to check these.

2. You invite the real client decision makers (the people ultimately paying the bill and with the most to gain or loose) to attend and participate. With appropriate briefing and moderation they will feel they contribute by presenting the problem and not by trying to come up with the solution. Contribution lends itself to the buy-in of ideas they have participated in developing.

So who should you invite to a star chamber? Well this does of course depend on your schutzpah and your budget. Why shouldn’t you invite Stephen Hawking, Steven Fry, Richard Branson and Russell Davies to attend a star chamber? There are bound to be analysts, planners, journalists, CEO’s and consultants who have spent their lives evaluating and dissecting the market your client is worrying about.

So instead of inviting the agency tea-lady and the most junior client to plan the fate of a brand through a brainstorm, form a star chamber. Encourage ideas and debate that are informed by those who recognise what is possible but dream of the impossible, rather than those that survive on a diet of competitive mediocrity.

Step, once more, unto the breach. It’s an uncomfortable step into the unknown for most. But wouldn’t you rather listen to the thoughts of giants than minnows?

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