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How to Generate Big Ideas

INNOVATIVE IDEA-GENERATION: In the 1500’s, Leonardo da Vinci employed both drawings and words to describe his incredible ideas and inventions. By using sketches with captions, his concepts became clear, exciting graphic presentations. And we think Lenny had it right.

Leonardo da Vinci's concept for a helicopter
used both his inventive sketch and descriptive words.

What Happens In A Session?

A lot of ideas happen quickly—and the Big Ideas are the nuggets. When beginning a VISUAL BRAINSTORMING session we ask the group to define their “Problem Statement” in 10 words or less. Then, after showing participants how to “switch on” their creativity, we invite them to start hatching ideas. Each fragile new concept is sketched on the spot. The result is astounding—the room comes alive with energy as more and more ideas get posted on the walls. Groups always generate at least 25 idea sketches. When wrapping up the session, participants lobby for their favorite concepts, then vote for “Biggest Ideas” and discuss how to make those Big Ideas happen.


A Visualized Example

Imagine a brainstorming session in Detroit where automotive participants have decided that the “Problem Statement” is: IMPROVE THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR. On the left, you see a traditional brainstorming facilitator using nothing but words to describe the group’s ideas—there’s nothing on his piece of paper to wake up the Right Side of your brain. Compare that to the VISUAL BRAINSTORMING session shown at right. It’s being facilitated with pictures and words. First, the quick sketch brings the idea to life. Then captions describe the essence of the idea. The idea sketches allow participants to get it—they can see how each idea might develop. Posting these sketches creates a stimulating Idea Wall that always inspires additional ideas.





Who Is Involved? How Long? Where?

Conducted in your conference room, or at an offsite location, these sessions are usually attended by 12 to 20 key managers, although we've facilitated sessions with larger groups. Participants typically include management, marketing, advertising, sales, research, public relations and communications. A session can be completed in as little as four hours—but the longer it goes, the larger the number of ideas. (As Nobel-Prize-winner, Dr. Linus Pauling said: “The best way to get a good idea—is to get a lot of ideas.”)


The Session Report

At your option, within ten days of the session a report can be presented. The report will picture and describe each idea generated, include a summary of the group lobbying for specific ideas, a tally of the voting for Biggest Ideas, and the participants’ comments on how to make those Big Ideas happen. This stimulating report is a valuable follow-up to the session and—particularly due to its visual nature—invariably leads to further idea generation.



“A superb marketer, John Emmerling, works both visually and verbally to help mine deeply buried information and insights.

Watching John conduct one of his “visual brainstorming” sessions with a group of business people, is to watch a master builder. He coaxes and charts the group’s random thoughts, notions and desires, spurring them on with verbal challenges and provocative cartoons, as he mixes, matches and builds strong, actionable objectives—and the strategies needed to achieve them.”

Mike Slosberg
(Formerly Bronner, Slosberg, Humphrey)

“John Emmerling led our team to create more than 25 fresh, business-building ideas in about five hours.”

John J. Miller
Senior V.P. Group Publishing Dir.
Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.

"The feeling in this seven-hour session was electric. Our group generated 59 ideas . . . providing me with a wealth of marketing strategies that can be executed immediately and well into the future!"

Denise Parpard Harrison
Vice President-Marketing
The Art of Shaving

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