Road testing the Think Tank

Picture the scene – strategist Lou and I are waiting in the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy reception. We are stocked up with post-its and fully prepared to hold a creative workshop… yet as we sit we nervously fidget like we got caught bunking off .

At Brilliant Noise we’re always on the lookout for effective and creative approaches to solving our clients challenges. We’re believers that the ‘classic’ brainstorm format is broken, a frustrating and unproductive nightmare at the best of times. The loud people are loud, the introverts zone out and the problem on the wall is rarely solved. And the idea of a pair of creative geniuses locking themselves in a room to chisel out a solid gold idea that they spend more energy selling-in and defending doesn’t work so well either.

So we’ve been working on new ways. What we’ve been developing we’ve called Think Tank. Think Tank is a set of tools, games and exercises for the entire team to play, to develop creative solutions to client challenges.

We use a mix of convergent (practical and straightforward problem solving) and divergent (abstract, undefined and out-of-the-box problem solving) techniques. Ways to get introverts and extroverts to have a fair share of voice and get people to ‘work on their own’, but in a group environment.

Our Think Tank prep includes audience, landscape and market insight, giving us robust data to input into the team and ensure we’re actually asking the right question.

We’ve been road testing this with a number of clients and had some excellent results. With an energy client we’ve proposed a number of exciting ways to directly impact their organic search results, for a client in the cybersecurity innovation space we’ve developed a brand positioning and a raft of ideas to engage an audience of tech entrepreneurs.

All good. But the big test? How about what some would regard as the most difficult of all – sixth form students. Which brings us back to our nervous start in the school reception.

We were delighted to be invited to PACA this week to work with the 6th form students studying Digital Media. It was a great opportunity to road-test our Think Tank. We were taken to meet the class and we presented the challenge: how can we promote awareness of and sustainable behaviour around plastic use?

Time was of the essence, so three Think Tank exercises were hand-picked. One divergent, one convergent and one particularly disruptive one (which was by far the most enjoyable) allowed the gloves to come off.

As you might imagine. The expectation of facilitating a room of oft-sceptical, easily distracted and highly opinionated people (that’s most clients in my experience) is a formidable one. Still Lou and I dived in and handed the sharpies out. Within 10 minutes, the air was thick with the fumes of permanent marker and buzzing with ideas. The loud ones got their moment in the spotlight – and importantly, the quiet ones did too, coming up with some cracking ideas.

We filled the white board in no time, powering through the exercises. And hand on heart, we must have got at least 4 or 5 developable ideas out of the team in under 90 mins. Ideas ranging from launching a new fashion brand exclusively using recycled plastic bottles, to creating a series of influencer-led skateboard videos using recycled plastic skate parts. A huge success.

We even got a good report from the Teacher afterwards:

Thank you so much to you and Lou for running such a wonderful creative workshop today – the students really enjoyed it – and to get a spontaneous applause is a first! The students were actively engaged throughout the session and it really gave them an insight to creative thinking and development of ideas – vital professional experience, thanks.” Fiona, BDMA Partnerships Operations Manager.

Think Tank is in constant development and is already proving to be an invaluable tool in our creative toolkit. If you want to discuss putting a business challenge into one of our sessions then get in touch.