Most ideation sessions I've sat through were painful, long, and ironically - didn't produce any good ideas. After attending a workshop on how to run ideation sessions with Rose Herceg, formerly director of strategy at STW group, I came up with a list of ideation rules I'd like to hold myself to:

  • Have a single objective. Not 2, not 3, not 486 mashed together. Just. One. If you need to tackle more than one objective, hold more than one ideation session.
  • Own the room. As a facilitator, your energy is the room's energy. 
  • Assign thought-starters prior to the session: Ideation session with ideas> ideation sessions without ideas.
  • Assign an (articulate) scribe: Good ideas are lost if they can't be communicated well. Think in headlines & cultural references to communicate ideas succinctly (think 'Uber for couriering', not 'a mobile request service to connect people in need of a shipping solution with delivery providers') 
  • Filter ideas: Use Google Venture's dot system to separate good ideas from average ideas.
  • Respect your team's time: Start on time. End early. This is key to getting and keeping - good vibes in a large group.

In a nutshell:

If the environment for ideation sessions isn't right, reschedule. Take responsibility for facilitating ideation with energy, enthusiasm, and focus - it's infectious, & it will absolutely impact the quality of output.

These are much easier said than done: but if you're in the ideas business, you can't afford to not be an expert in running productive ideation.