Conventional wisdom states that the best brainstorming sessions are the extremely rapid fire ones where ideas are flying out like arrows and much energy is expended. In actual fact, you need a little bit of deliberation before you can make a concept tangible. And a little more before you invest in fixed costs before getting it to market.
Where and how does this apply? Since brainstorming is a part of the user centered design process, it really should not be left out of the strategic planning process. In actual fact, it very often is – when timelines are created by earnest young project managers, trained in the latest business school frameworks, they follow the planning phases taught in classes like Marketing 101 or Intro to strategy.
None of these processes, from what I recall of my business school days have an explicit step in their various processes for brainstorming or ideation. It is implicit, that if a marketing department of a large global multinational, goes away on a fancy offsite to come up with the next three year markeitng plan for the country, they will get together in teams and brainstorm on strategies for the plan.
But they don’t, not really, it’s a few hurried minutes, usually with some amount of guilt or embarressment in indulging themselves in the pleasure of free flowing thoughts and ideas instead of doing ‘real work’.
That’s something every designers knows, on a deep and fundamental level, that you need to set the time aside to brainstorm, that the energy is the key to a good end result, not necessarily the specific ideas in and of themselves.
It seems like a very organic process, and it brings the whole team together, prepared then to go their own ways for their specific parts of the project, after all having more or less understood the collective vision.
If applied with the religiousity that it is among design firms, to regular finance, sales, marketing or engineering meetings, in a company, before it begins the new product development process or new market strategy, think of the difference it would make to the global end result?
HP did that. Can one deny that HP is a very strong brand across the world? In fact, it was only yesterday or so that I was talking to someone on the phone about having worked for HP, and he said, that’s funny, there are so many people around that have all worked for HP, it’s like they’re a cult or something. Alright, maybe he didn’t say all of that, but it sure sounded like it.
When I was in charge of the All India advertising for HP’s boxes division (printers had a seperate advertising person) we would regularly attend Asia Pacific Marcom Conferences, usually just before the New Product Introductions date each quarter. There we’d be introduced, as a group – S Korea, China, Australia & NZ, India, and the ASEAN – to our theme for the year. We’d share ideas for implementation, and knowing what Malaysia was doing, helped me in India to evaluate what would work for India.
Now this is not unique and many companies do it, or, do they? There is a fundamental difference between a ‘launch’ or a kickoff where the senior management presents to the team the concept and it’s implementation (i.e. the corporate strategy or vision) and one where the team is creating the brand together.
For that is what it is, this pride in having worked for a company like Hewlett-Packard, it is a manifestation of our brand loyalty, instilled in us by HP’s training program? For we were each taught to answer the phone, in the same way, thereby being consistent along HP’s brand promise. We understood we were part of the brand mystique. That our every action and word to the outside world was part and parcel of the integrity of the HP brand.
Was it a cult? Have we not already said that brand loyalty is nothing more than a ‘cult’? The cult of Apple? Google is evil vs we can’t live without it? Skype rocks and I’m going to convert my own contact list than give up using Skype?
Those are all examples of brands that instill a following, a conversion almost, wouldn’t you say, for all of them? Whether how music is stored and played, or landlines and telcos or Yahoo the grandmaster search engine brand?
I believe it came out a paused phase of deliberation. Of thinking, the second word in the term "design thinking".