Light-Bulb-Idea-Hand What a month.

If I'm counting correctly, I've lead more than 30 hours of brainstorming during the past 30 days.

Some of it has been informal, like a training session I led for my friend Ken Ackerman's Vistage group.

But most of it has been highly structured.
A major corporation, determined to innovate, has me leading groups of smart people in an aggressive initiative to generate and develop ideas for a competitive marketplace.

The client there — confidentiality is sacred on this project — came up with the best idea so far. He's got a mind for management. At our first planning meeting, he said, "We need ideas. But we aren't especially creative people. We're smart, but just too close to the problem. We need someone to sit on our side of the table, helping us to be more creative, so we can get more ideas out of ourselves and our outside resources."

That was a powerful idea. And it placed me in the corporate kitchen. Suddenly (after 20 years of preparation), I'm their corporate creative counsel — leading brainstorms and encouraging innovation. And, man o man, is it ever productive. It's amazing and delightful how many good ideas can boil up, when the pot is stirred.

Getting Started
Whenever I lead a brainstorm, we start by creating YES! Space, as I've been taught by the inspiring folks at Improvedge with Karen Hough's YES! DECK.

Then, we warm up with a practice mini-brainstorm. We brainstorm our own ground rules for our brainstorming. It's a nice, ironic start. And an easy way for me to demonstrate some of the ways we do not want anyone to brainstorm.

If you are working with a team of folks, here's how to design your brainstorm process.

And here's Go Artie!, a personal brainstorming tool.

Why rules? Isn't this brainstorming, dude?
Yes, brainstorming is best when it's open minded. But "open minded" doesn't mean a reckless disregard for the question-at-hand and the intended outcomes.

So, for principled brainstorming, we need some guidelines.

Here's The Best Guidelines
After having so many groups brainstorm on their own rules, I've assembled Brainstorming Guidelines.

After all, you probably have some need for a few fresh ideas. So brainstorm!

Maybe this list is missing something. If so, let me know.