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Brainstorming Session

Use Shopify's template to help your team come up with your next big idea
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Preparation

Attendees

  • Invite stakeholders that are representatives from each discipline that is relevant (design, product, engineering, etc)
  • Assign a facilitator that is neutral to act as the scribe and decision-maker

Space 

  • Choose a spot that the team doesn’t regularly use for meetings. Be sure to have a big blank wall where you can place post-it notes from your brainstorming session

Time

  • Consider one hour for a micro-session, three to four hours for a medium-sized discussion, and a full day for a larger project

To bring

(if this is a virtual meeting try to use online tools to mimic the post-it notes)

  • Chart paper
  • Post-it notes
  • Dot stickers
  • Pens

Brainstorming Session‍

Break the Ice

Tell me a story about… What did you want to be when you were younger... Where do you want to go on holiday and why? etc. 

To make sure your session remains focused, you should begin with a question. What specifically are you trying to solve?

  1. How can we get people to perform X specific action?
  2. What would lead to increased conversion on X client’s site?
  3. How can we achieve X result?

Establish rules for the session

  • No idea is stupid
  • Postpone criticism. Feel free to ask clarification questions, but wait until the team decides whether to dig into that particular idea to provide any constructive feedback
  • Don't focus on the solution in the early stages of the brainstorm — just focus on the problem
  • You don’t need to raise your hand to speak, but make sure you’re not cutting anyone off
  • No phones or laptops

Brainstorm

A great way to encourage everyone to speak up and to mitigate groupthink is to begin with silence: a solo brainstorm where each individual writes down all of their ideas on post-it notes. This should only last a few minutes. Be sure to use a timer to make sure you stay on track. As people are jotting down their ideas, the facilitator can begin to collect those post-its and start grouping them into themes and concepts onto the whiteboard or blank wall.

Voting

After the initial brainstorming session, it’s often useful to have small, circular colored stickers so that people can vote on their preferred ideas. Consider giving each person a maximum of two stickers (or “votes”) per brainstorming sprint, and dole them out accordingly.

Summarize

The facilitator should paraphrase and synthesize as many of the points as possible to make sure everyone is following.

Prioritize

When the top ideas have been voted upon, it’s time to decide how to take action. Here are two questions the group should determine before leaving the room:

  • What is our deadline? This will vary greatly depending on the scope of the project. It could range from next week to the end of the year. Make sure you choose an ambitious, but achievable, timeframe
  • Who will own this? It could be that the Project Manager will take ownership of each of these line items, but cross-collaboration between teams means there could be multiple stakeholders for each item

Use or customize this template

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or still using Microsoft Word or Google Docs?

How to use this template for your next

Brainstorming Session

Your next big idea could be the one that makes your business take off. Getting to that big idea, however, can be a struggle. One person alone can only view a scenario from their singular perspective. That’s why it’s so important to lean on the collective talent of your team, via brainstorming.

The problem with traditional brainstorming is that it often leads to groupthink — everyone building off of one idea, instead of coming up with new and unique approaches. Developing an effective creative brainstorming process, as is outlined in the template, can help to prevent this.

Learn more about how Shopify runs their brainstorming sessions here. 

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About the author

Courtney Symons

Courtney Symons

Courtney is a lead writer at Shopify, working in the office of CEO Tobi LĂĽtke. Previously, she led the Shopify Partner digital marketing team in Ottawa. She launched the Shopify Web Design & Development Blog and created various pieces of content including guide books, webinars, and the Grow book series.

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