Vomiting out the garbage

2 Sep

I want to tell you about a cool brainstorming technique we use at Copeland to generate powerful ideas within a half an hour. We call it Dirt, Rocks and Diamonds.Day2

We start by gathering as many people as are available around our boardroom table and posing a question.

Example: How does our client X improve their service offering to encourage more frequent use amongst their customers?

Then everyone is given 5 minutes to write down every possible solution they can think of. This is strictly timed and a moderator shouts out time remaining like some drill sargeant. (Urgency is key. Plus, I love to do it.) The purpose here is to get all the easily accessible ideas out and on the table. The sort of stuff that anyone would logically come up with. We see a lot of commonality in the ideas that people generate in the first 5 minutes. And we want to access deeper thinking.

We also notice that people tend to run out of easily accessible ideas around 4 minutes in. They slow down. Have to think harder. That’s good.

Once this stuff – the garbage or “dirt” we call it – is out, everyone quickly shares their ideas. Then they’re discarded. The ideas, not the people. There may be a germ of a good solve in there, but most often it’s predictable stuff.

We then move into small groups, again timed, and start conversations, sometimes using the dirt as starting points, but most often digging further down into new areas. The moderator barks (love that part).

After 10 minutes, the groups read out their new ideas. These almost always contain solid workable solutions with deeper thinking. These are our “rocks”.

The final stage has the group working together to polish the best of the rocks into something very special. Every time we have done this, we have ended up with exciting stuff…our “diamonds”.

We don’t use this every time we have a brief, but only when we’re pressed for time.

Try it out and let us know how it works. Or ask one of us to come in and moderate a session for you. That’s the fun part anyway!


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