Many great ideas start with a good brainstorming session. Brainstorming is a key process in any business. It’s the practice of generating new ideas or solutions to problems, and a powerful tool that can be used to help groups work towards a common goal. For marketers, it can be the start of the next brilliant email campaign, highly converting thought leadership content, attention-grabbing ad and much more.

For all its benefits, brainstorming can be tricky too. Whether you are conducting the exercise alone or with others, it can be difficult to brainstorm effectively and productively. Follow these tips for improving your group brainstorming sessions:

1. Establish guardrails. When brainstorming, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and begin listing out-there ideas and solutions. While you want creativity to be a part of your brainstorming, guardrails are important too. Ahead of your brainstorming session, take the time to answer a few questions that will help you establish some simple decision-making criteria and help your participants focus. What are your goals for the end product that you are brainstorming for? What resources are available? Are there any limitations? This will help narrow your focus while brainstorming.

2. Emphasize quantity. When it comes to brainstorming, emphasize quantity over quality. No one is expecting you to solve the issue in the very first session. So, you don’t need to put all your time and energy into one idea. Just keep going! The best scenario is coming out of a brainstorm with multiple solid ideas that you can then think more deeply on and perhaps experiment with a few of those ideas. If you spend all your time on one idea in a brainstorming session and it doesn’t work out, you will be back at square one.

3. No judgement. There can be absolutely zero judging in a brainstorming session involving multiple people. For people to be comfortable and creative, they must feel like every idea is welcomed. If an individual feels like their ideas are being dismissed, they are likely to stop freely contributing to the conversation. The more people this happens to, the less likely you are to generate ideas. When someone comes up with an idea, welcome it.

4. Set a goal. Many people are goal-oriented, which can be used to your advantage during brainstorming sessions. Before beginning, set a goal. This goal could be something like a set amount of ideas from the group or three ideas from each person. People are naturally going to want to achieve these goals, so it provides motivation for people to try their best. On top of that, if you reach your goal, then you will come out of the brainstorming session with a sense of accomplishment. It will get you excited and create enthusiasm for the next session.

5. Keep it brief. When brainstorming, shorter sessions are preferable to longer ones. Brainstorming requires a lot of energy, so a shorter session encourages people to be quick with their responses rather than contemplating one thing for too long. A shortened session also helps avoid the slump and low energy of longer meetings. And if people know they only have an hour to come up with ideas, they will be more motivated to reach their goal. Make sure that your participants know that there will be a hard stop to the brainstorming session after the allotted time expires, which adds some urgency.

Happy Marketing!