Brainstorming Sessions That Work

By Lori Greene
Global Manager Education & Apprenticeships at Netflix

Brainstorming is a numbers game, the more ideas you have to choose from, the better your chances are for success. So, just how do you go about generating lots of amazing concepts that meet and exceed your goals?

I asked Arabella Pollack, interim director of Strategic Communications at Columbia University and Founder of Greystoke Insights, to reveal the secret sauce to brainstorms.

Here’s what Arabella said:

Set Goals

  • Make sure that you know what you’d like to get out of any facilitation session

Choose Participants

  • Pick no more than 25 people and ensure that the right stakeholders are in the room


  • Give everyone enough information so that you can hit the ground running once you all gather.  
  • Insist that everyone is prepared and reads the material in advance of the session.

Session Set-Up

  • Go to a locale outside the office that’s more comfortable and minimizes work distractions
  • Casual dress helps break down hierarchies and barriers
  • Have food and beverages


  • Review the goals
    • Set the rules and reinforce them when necessary
    • No mobile phones or laptops (except person taking notes)
    • There are no bad ideas
    • Respect for everyone’s thoughts
  • Make it fun
    • Come up with creative exercises to get to the goals – collages, drawing and any kind of structured play can help generate great ideas
    • Use an Elmo doll from Sesame Street and when someone gets too longwinded they get the stuffed animal.  Why? Elmo stands for — Enough, Let’s Move On!
  • Break up into groups to develop more ideas and keep the energy levels high

Gain Consensus

  • Using post-it notes makes it easy to organize ideas into themes
  • Have everyone vote on the best ideas


  • Keep records of all the ideas, even those that weren’t used. They might come in useful in the future
  • Send a follow-up email with all the ideas that were selected
  • Detail what will happen with the ideas and when
  • Keep participants in the loop as the ideas are developed
Lori Greene
Lori Greene
Global Manager Education & Apprenticeships at Netflix

Lori Greene is an educator, digital marketer, strategist, content creator, and a frequent speaker on digital subjects. Currently she runs external workforce education as the Global Manager Education & Apprenticeships at Netflix and is a marketing adjunct in New York University’s (NYU) School of Professional Studies in the Division of Programs in Business.

She is also a proven multi-platform digital marketing executive highly proficient in all aspects of media including social, mobile, and television. As founder of LPG Enterprises, Greene helped brands such as Intel, NBC Universal, Indeed, Oppenheimer Funds, the Village Voice, Citi, Merck, the Association of National Advertisers, and more with digital marketing, ideation, editorial, content marketing, social media, facilitation, and training.

Greene was the Senior Partner, Director of Content for Maxus Global, where she won content marketing’s highest honor – a Pearl Award. In addition, she was a television producer at Food Network, Lifetime, and The Travel Channel; ran digital at BBC America, The History Channel, and Court TV; devised content at Time Inc.; and won numerous other awards for her digital work.


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