Companies have used brainstorming sessions as a tool to create “original” marketing ideas for decades. To be original, you must be first. Originality is the mark of an innovative company and is the wind in a successful marketing campaign. However, workplace habits and trends are eroding the benefits of true brainstorming.

The forecast for original ideas looks bleak. Instead of putting a pen to paper to extract original ideas from your brain, it’s more natural today to do an Internet search to see what other people have done in similar situations. This practice of regurgitating already-done ideas may be detrimental to your marketing campaign’s success because it takes away from the tornado of memorable innovations associated with being a trailblazer.

During the last two years, I have had better success brainstorming away from the computer screen – whether at a coffee shop, on a long run or in the shower. When you are not comparing your problem to a prefabricated solution, your brain explores more options. Here’s a lightning quick list of essential items for brainstorming success:

Chief Brainstormerologist:
A brainstorm session must be planned and facilitated by an experienced and energetic leader with strong communication skills. This person must set adequate timelines and be fair to all ideas during the session. This person must not promote all their ideas as the best.

Clear Goal:
Investing time into brainstorming is wasted unless there’s a well-defined goal. Bad Example – The brainstorming session goal is to create ideas to increase sales. Good Example – The brainstorming session goal is to create ideas to increase web-based sales by 20 percent to Upper Midwest women 18-34 for the next three months.

Session Prep Time:
Team members need an adequate amount of time to rack their brains for ideas prior to meeting. The less time you give someone to prepare, the more likely they’ll just search the Internet and be stuck with one idea without giving their imagination a chance to shine. Some people do not think well on their feet but have stellar ideas in their storm cellar.

Proper Invites:
The brainstorm leader (Chief Brainstormerologist) must invite the appropriate team members. I have seen many great ideas blocked by managers because they were not included in the initial brainstorm. Being included in the brainstorm is essential for team member buy-in.

Comfortable Atmosphere:
The environment should make all team members feel that every idea is a good idea. In many instances, the golden solution yielded from the brainstorm is a culmination of different ideas. Create a level playing field for all idea givers – no matter what their status is on the corporate ladder.

Let the brainstorm team know what was decided. Let them know that you appreciate them sharing their original ideas. Hopefully, this will lead to more innovative thought in daily tasks. The most successful brainstorming session will yield a solution that no one will remember who originally voiced the solution.

The tried-and-true brainstorming fundamental has changed in today’s marketing discipline. I believe that the creative craft is better with original thought created without an Internet search. We’d love to learn your opinion about the future of brainstorming. Please post your opinion at

MacDalton Berns is a marketing advisor at Absolute Marketing Group in Moorhead, Minnesota and teaches advertising class at Concordia College. Feel free to contact Mac at 218-284-1111 or