In my new book on strategy I discuss the problems with brainstorming. But, if done right, working as a team to develop ideas can be powerful. I wanted to share how to do brainstorming the right way with a great example from one of the best organizations around.

Atomic Object is a dynamic, creative, and energetic software development company and is one of the best-run organizations I have ever seen. We found them in Grand Rapids, Michigan and liked working with them because of their honesty, business savvy, and speed.

I led a project where we teamed up with Atomic Object to develop software. In the early stages of design-thought we were faced with a few thorny problems. Strategically, our software needed to:

  • Have a fresh design – be light, intriguing, and inviting.
  • Provide immediate usability without instruction and deliver quick value.
  • Tell a story and give the user an intuitive perspective of the data.

We tackled our interface design challenges by first creating wireframes (a draft concept) and then engaging a professional designer. The wireframing process is critical to giving designers something to work with.

To create our wireframe we took each interface concept independently. We set a timer for 5 minutes, and we took a blank sheet of paper, some crayons or colored pencils, and on our own, drew what we thought could be a good interface.

When the timer rang we stopped and took turns briefing what we drew. The briefing activity became an amazing “building upon” process where we took the best ideas and added to them as a collective group. The brainstorming in this case worked well because we had a variety of independent creative starting points.

We continued this process with each component of the interface. Within a couple of hours we had a design that met our strategic objectives. Best of all, we were energized, excited, and anxious to get to work on building the software.

For more on strategy see A Leader’s Guide to Strategic Technology Planning.

Strategy ebook cover