5 minute read

11 fun ways to unlock creative thinking at your next meeting

Tricia Whenham
Posted by Tricia Whenham on Oct 5, 2017 6:00:00 AM
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Quick – come up with 3 words to describe your last meeting.

Did words like productive and collaborative come to mind? Nice work – you must be doing something right. Or maybe you thought frustrating, unproductive or words we can’t write on this blog. Yikes – that’s a whole other problem.

But either way, I’m guessing the word creative wasn’t top of mind. And that’s a huge missed opportunity. When we meet, often the goal is to solve a problem or figure out a new course of action. Creativity is crucial, but it’s often MIA during the process.

Want a simple way to get off to a creative start at your next brainstorming session or team huddle? Try one of these 11 creative thinking warm-ups at your next meeting.

1. Think of the worst possible idea

“This might be a dumb idea, but…” This phrase came out of my mouth during a recent brainstorming session – and I’m guessing I’m not alone in letting worries about being judged act as a drain on my creativity. For an unexpected solution, start your next meeting with negative brainstorming. The challenge? Come up with the worst idea you could possibly try. You can loosen up the team and get self-doubt out of the way early – plus occasionally mine gold from an idea someone thought was the worst.

Creative thinking with brainwriting

2. Try brainwriting

Fed up with brainstorming? There’s a twist that can make sessions more inclusive and avoid groupthink – that’s when team members fixate on the first ideas shared. Brainwriting gives everyone a chance to record ideas individually before sharing them. You can use a digital solution like our Nureva™ Span™ Workspace (built to support brainwriting) or old-fashioned paper – the key is giving people time with their own thoughts before the free-for-all starts.

3. Eat chocolate

Yes, there actually is evidence that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has effects on the brain that are conducive to creative thought. Chocolate has been shown to boost the production of endorphins and other mood improving chemicals. And its flavonoids also can improve blood flow to the brain. Even if none of that really works, at least you’re eating chocolate!

Creative thinking with exercise

4. Get active

Does it seem like you come up with your best ideas while you’re on a run? There’s evidence linking physical activity with creative thinking – especially for people who engage regularly in spurts of exercise. You could try warming up the team with a few jumping jacks, yoga poses – or even bounces on a mini trampoline if you’re adventurous. But don’t push it too hard – if you’re not already fit, your energy may get tapped just making it through the exercise.

5. Find inspiration

What’s the best ad you’ve seen? Is there a UI interface so well executed it brings a tear to your eye? Try starting each meeting by sharing this kind of creative inspiration. Designers have been doing this for ages – creating mood boards, both paper or digital. Just looking at a movie trailer or a beautiful web design can move the imagination and put people in the frame of mind to create together.

Creative thinking in new spaces

6. Leave the building

Maybe it isn’t the people – it’s the place. Too many meeting rooms still resemble digitally enhanced caves. Plus, even the best designed meeting room can get stale. Try taking your next meeting somewhere else. Walk-and-talk down the street like you stepped off the set of The West Wing, or find another place to escape stale spaces (and stale thinking).

7. Play improv games

Activities from improv are a mainstay of getting people loosened up. Try the three things in common game, where pairs try to figure out the most unexpected things they share. Or challenge your group to count to 20 as a group with one person saying each number – but no one is assigned a number, and if two people talk at the same time, everyone starts again at 1.

Creative thinking with games

8. Channel your inner child

Anyone who’s seen a schoolyard at recess knows that kids are the true creativity experts. Take a lesson from them and start with a game. You can dump out the Lego on the floor of your meeting room or grab some spaghetti and marshmallows for a competitive tower building challenge. The creative thinking that helps them conquer the building process can be just what you need to solve your work challenges.

9. Gain perspective with freewriting

Like brainwriting, freewriting involves time for individual work. But instead of trying to come up with defined answers to the problem at hand, you just write about it. And write. And write and write – never letting your pen stop moving. At the end, you may not have the perfect business model or interface design, but you may have figured out a new way to think about it.

Creative thinking with drawing

10. Drawing challenges

Activate your right brain with artistic challenges that require no actual artistic talent. Here’s one from IDEO – give everyone a sheet with 30 circles and ask them to turn them into as many recognizable objects as they can in 3 minutes. Another idea – pair people up for a buddy portrait. There are only two rules: don’t lift your pen and don’t look down.

11. Be unpredictable

Do you really want to shake things up? Jim McCafferty at JMP Creative is the master. He’ll go to pretty much any length to break people out of their ordinary thinking and has brought everything from alligators to acrobats into ideation sessions. Here are a few more unconventional ideas from this master idea man.


Topics: Creativity Meetings