Writer’s block, creative block, burn out — here are a few things we experience from time to time in the office. We try brainstorming, but all ideas are nothing but yawn-worthy. Tomorrow will be better, we tell ourselves, but this time our ideas literally put us to sleep and we wake up to a pool of drool no one wants to clean up. (Ok not actually, but pretty much…)
So what do we do in these desperate times? Look at different unconventional exercises to get our creative juices flowing, get us better organized, and more focused. We adopted these exercises from other agencies, blogs we love, or developed ourselves. We know getting inspired sometimes can be a tough and tricky situation, so to help you guys out we’ve shared our list below.
What’s Holding your Attention? Developed by Ideo
Implement a “Check-in” question session every morning with your team. As we all know, our lives don’t solely consist of what we do at work. We have stresses at home, too. Whether it is taking care of kids, renovating a kitchen, ending our favorite Netflix series (don’t be fooled, this sh*t can sting like a bad breakup), there are things we carry into our work lives, but keep to ourselves. By implementing a daily check-in question, such as “Where is your mind today?” or “What do you need from us?”, allows everyone to understand the baggage that each person has brought into the office. While this isn’t technically a brainstorming exercise, it could be what’s holding your team back. By clearing the air amongst team members, everyone feels more comfortable with being vulnerable with one another. And with vulnerability comes the ability to let go of fear and in turn, more risk-taking when it comes time to brainstorm.
“Out of the box” Tool. Developed by us, Serious Business
We use this tool when we have a specific problem to solve. It’s usually our first step in brainstorming, and honestly the most fun.
- We begin by drawing a large square with a cross in the middle to create four smaller squares.
- Assign each adjective or phrase to describe how we’d reach a solution. For example, one square could be “the most illegal way”, another square could be, “the simplest way”, or even “the weirdest way”. Don’t take these ideas too seriously, go wild. Remind your team this is merely a brainstorming activity.
- Every team member writes their ideas on sticky notes and places them inside the first square. Doesn’t matter who starts. Before placing them inside the square, he or she must read the solution aloud. Remember, there is no judging allowed.
- Dedicate seven minutes to each square and make sure each square is being done one at a time. Otherwise it can get a little too chaotic. Good luck and have fun!
Playing the right music tunes.
You can pair this “tool” with any one of the other exercises found on this list. Or simply use it on its own, however, your team decides. We love to listen to music to help us reach that creative flow state. Music has the power to actually alter our mood. Therefore, if we find ourselves hitting a wall, one of our first go-to solutions is turning on a playlist filled with pleasant vibrations, like this one here we curated ourselves. We opt for music without lyrics or lyrics in a language we don’t understand. (This tends to be difficult considering the fact that we speak about 6 languages between all of us, so no lyrics works best). Some additional playlists on Spotify we enjoy include: Lofi hip hop music, Focus Flow, Flow State: Productivity and Work Music.
What are you doing? Developed by Hyper Island
This one comes from Hyper Island’s vault of Energizers. Energizers are activities to get your team, you guessed it, energized. Let’s say your team is in a meeting involving brainstorming and the overall morale is low, getting everyone off their feet doing this exercise will have you spewing out ideas in no time.
- Begin by gathering everyone in a circle. One person steps into the middle and starts acting out an action like talking on the phone or washing the dishes.
- Another person would then enter the circle and ask, “What are you doing?” The first person then would respond with a completely different action, so if they are acting out brushing their teeth, they could say, “I’m watering my plants”.
- The exercise continues until everyone has gone or until everyone is ENERGIZED!
You are a book. Developed by Dreams for Life
Here is another energizer to get some life thrown back into your team. While “drop and give me 20” could potentially work, I’m pretty sure none of us reading this are military sergeants. So instead, give this fun one a try.
- Make sure there is enough space around. If it’s a beautiful day, maybe try doing this one outside.
- Begin with one person leading the group. He or she will stand in front of everyone else while holding up a book or a magazine.
- The rest of the team must behave and act like the book or magazine. For example, if the leader moves it to the right, the group must move to the right. If the leader twists the magazine, the group must twist themselves or interpret the twisting shape however he or she wishes, but it must resemble the object in some way. Continue for about 3 minutes, feel that pang of energy, and get back to work!
Mash-Up Innovation. Developed by Hyper Island
This exercise is for those times we are looking to get as innovative as possible.
- To begin, we start with three different categories. For example, ‘sources of data’, ‘transportation’, and ‘human need’. You can be as broad or specific as you would like here but choose wisely. Take three minutes of brainstorming ideas related to each topic, such as Facebook or Libraries for ‘sources of data’. Make sure each person is saying their idea aloud before placing their post-it underneath the topic. Go through this exercise exercise in a fast pace. Everyone is posting their ideas simultaneously.
- Next, organize small groups and have each group develop a new concept using at least two ideas from two different topics. Give the new concept a catchy name. Don’t spend longer than 12 minutes on this task.
- After this, have each group present their newly formed concepts. Make sure all concepts are posted on a whiteboard, chart, or screen, so that all concepts are visible by the end of the exercise.
- Lastly, have everyone reflect together. Ask questions such as: What was challenging about this exercise? What learnings can we bring forward with us?
The lifeboat — A tool to keep your company afloat in times of turmoil and uncertainty. Developed by us, Serious Business.
This tool is not necessarily for brainstorming in times of mental blocks, but it is quite relevant in these trying times of isolation & crisis, so we figured we’d add it in here! Usually, this exercise requires a flipchart or blank wall for sticky noting. We understand that’s not possible with the current circumstances, so we recommend mural, an online brainstorming tool that allows virtual sticky noting and can be accessed remotely by your entire team.
To get the detailed run-down of what ‘The Lifeboat’ exercise entails, click here.
Navigate your future with Serious Business
Lastly, these past weeks we have been developing a digital innovation workshop that sets your business up for success in uncertain times. Similar goal to the aforementioned tool, but with this workshop, you would actually be collaborating with our design team to get a personalized action plan. Click here to find out more information. Or shoot us an email at [email protected] to get this collaboration rolling!
As for the tools we have shared, give them a try next time your team is feeling low.
We promise it will ignite a spark and get you motivated in no time!