Are You Sabotaging Your Brainstorming Sessions?

Brainstorming sessions can be fun. When a new project comes up or a new client comes in and the whole team gathers together to put ideas together that’s when everybody goes crazy.

Sometimes however, the whole process can be stifled by, well, the lack of process. And even when we make progress it is painfully slow with ideas being lost even before they are even given a chance. We know something is wrong, but we don’t know what.

Brainstorming much like writing, can be plagued by automatically constantly evaluating whiles one comes up with ideas. The solution for both can be simple – don’t evaluate while you ideate.
I once sat in Law seminar where the speaker spoke about their approach to organizing mock debates and writing closing arguments. He borrowed it from a creative writing method, and I realized that I can borrow it for the agency. The method works like a charm when we apply it to brainstorming in a similar manner as we would apply it to writing.

This method is detailed by Betty Sue Flowers in her brief, Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge: Roles and the Writing Process. With her method, she details four writing roles or stages. And we take that method developed for writing, and apply it to brainstorming at

Here goes:


It all starts with the Madman phase. This is the cool part, this is the phase where you generate as many ideas as you can as a group. Stay within reasonable limitations but be free to express yourselves without any budget constraints in mind. Forget about budget, or mechanics, or the client’s inclination, or audience reception; just generate as if you had complete freedom. You will realize that everyone can be and is the madman in this stage.


The Architect phase is where you structure your ideas. Tease out the general themes that were generated in the madman phase and organize them. The structuring of your crazy ideas will still involve everyone but, now you will find that the creative director, account manager or generally, the project lead will most likely be your architect.


In the Carpenter phase, you actually take the themes you generated and run with them. Assign them to teams or individuals to develop fully-fledged, back of napkin campaigns with mechanics, budget, channels etc. I find the best Architects are usually copywriters and account managers; let them roll with it. Later they’ll present them to the team… take a break from them and let everyone think about them…


Then have everyone Judge the ideas. Put all the ideas through their paces. Pick the strongest one and put that through its paces. Run it alone through the madman, architect carpenter judge process until you have the best possible pitch. Allow your Executive Creative Director and/or Creative Director and/or Account Director to lead this part of the phase.

That’s about it.

Try it out. Let me know if it works.


Flowers, Betty S. “Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge: Roles and the Writing Process.” Language Arts, vol. 58, no. 7, 1981, pp. 834–836.

Author: admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *