10 Rules For Mind-Blowing Brainstorming Sessions

Brainstorming new ideas is something that everyone that writes content, especially for business, strives to keep fresh. The problem is work and life get in the way and generating new ideas can seem forced if not given the proper time and framework. So how do you take the time and make new ideas? According to Garrison Wynn and Brian Carter, co-authors of the new book “The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice On How To Get Your Dream Job And Make More Money,” there are ten rules you should adhere to in order to get those creative ideas flowing and stay on track.


The Cowbell PrincipleHave you seen the More Cowbell sketch from Saturday Night Live? It’s more than just funny. Believe it or not, it’s a powerful metaphor for a successful work life. And it provides insight into the kind of people you need on your team, and what makes an effective team.

Everyone has at least one cowbell — it’s your unique, profitable talent people pay you for or your company’s unique offering. It’s something people have a fever for. When you discover it and give those people a ton of it, you gain success and happiness for both yourself and others. It’s a win-win.

A cowbell is simultaneously something you love doing and something other people really want as well (although, as we’ll see, you still will have detractors and critics). A cowbell creates joy for you and other people. It makes them yell for more. They can’t get enough.

Some Creativity Required, Batteries Not Included

Creativity is a big deal these days, because content marketing is the hottest digital marketing trend. More and more content is posted every day, but we each only have so much time for consuming content each day. We’re picky about what we read and we have more choices. That supply and demand equation means your free content has to be even more valuable!

As a marketer you want your content to stand out, you need to get even more creative- and that means you need an effective brainstorming process. Brainstorming can give you fresh and exciting ideas for many content types, including blog posts, ebooks, infographics, emails and headlines.

I sometimes mentor first-time writers or coordinate corporate brainstorming sessions. Both activities have similar pitfalls and teach similar lessons. From those experiences, I’ve created?

10 Rules For A Mind-Blowing Brainstorming Session

  1. No negativity. Ironically, I have to be negative about negativity here. No analysis or criticism or comparing or editing of other people’s ideas. Be positive about every contribution.
  2. All ideas are valid at this stage. Think about what’s good or bad later.
  3. Everyone contributes. Non-contributors should leave, because otherwise they make the contributors self-conscious and can lower the energy level.
  4. No computers or tablets or cell phones. Phones need to be completely silent. Buzzing phones are not acceptable. Have someone assigned to writing the ideas on a whiteboard. This person has no extra power in the brainstorming session and must contribute ideas too. You can switch up who’s writing them down every 10 minutes or so if you want. Another approach is to give everybody post-its and as they come up with ideas they just post their own post-its on one communal wall.
  5. Every idea is welcome, even dumb or crazy ones. Especially dumb and crazy ones! Purposely trying to think of stupid ideas can break through your internal judgment, which otherwise holds you back.
  6. Build on other people’s ideas. You may combine ideas during the brainstorm, or save idea combinations for a second brainstorming session. At times, that combining approach can be too analytical and may slow you down.
  7. Come up with as many ideas as you can. Strive for quantity not quality. It’s a good idea to have individuals brainstorm by themselves both before and after the group brainstorm session.
  8. Take turns talking. Listen when you’re not talking.
  9. Forget the past and think about the future instead. Figure out if ideas fit with your corporate values and traditions later, not while you’re brainstorming.
  10. Resist tangents like storytelling and joking. Too much talking by any one person can drain the group’s energy.

When you’re writing or brainstorming, you must have the attitude that every idea is good. You must separate the creating part of yourself from the criticizing part, or you’ll get writer’s block, and everybody in a brainstorming meeting is too afraid to vocalize ideas for fear of looking stupid. Everyone who’s going to brainstorm has to agree to support everybody’s ideas and vocalize all of theirs. Later you can judge those ideas. You’re not making a commitment to the ideas yet – you’re just sharing them.

Similarly, when you write blog posts or articles, you should not be editing. Do creation and editing at separate times. Just get everything typed out. Fix problems and polish it up later.

A brainstorming session is not the time to try to look good. If there’s someone in the room everyone’s trying to impress or who they’re afraid to anger or look bad in front of, even if (especially if) that’s the boss, you need to get that person out of the room, or that person needs to affirm all the brainstorming rules we’re talking about here. A quiet person of great authority in a brainstorming room is intimidating. If you aren’t going to contribute ideas, don’t go into the brainstorming room. There really is an argument for NOT having executives in the room, unless the room is only executives.


This post is an excerpt from the forthcoming book The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice On How To Get Your Dream Job And Make More Money, by Garrison Wynn and Brian Carter. Brian and Garrison will be giving away a limited number of digital copies at launch time. To get notified when they’re available, sign up at The Cowbell Principle.

Garrison and Brian are using AWeber to keep everyone updated the release of the book and deliver bonus materials – just another great example of how you can use AWeber to grow your audience!



  1. Melissa Danielle

    10/30/2014 4:27 am

    I spend at least two hours a week brainstorming ideas for new blog posts and ways to work with my clients. I find that the generating of ideas, and not necessarily implementing them, keeps me fresh, energized, and engaged.

  2. Lynette Young

    10/30/2014 10:48 am

    Melissa what a great way to keep yourself energized in your work! – Lynette Y.

  3. Ammar Zeb

    10/31/2014 10:30 am

    Hi Young, I have landed on your blog for the first time ever on my blog and I am just loving to explore it more and more and its helping me a lot.

    Thanks for this effort, keep writing well 🙂

  4. Thomas Rogers

    11/7/2014 11:07 am

    For our company we have set up the first half of the day every Monday to focus on two things. First is two-three hours dedicated to just reading up on our industry and that we are keeping current with marketing trends. Then we usually break for lunch. Followed by a two hour brainstorm session.

    I think the brainstorm benefits from have researching what others are doing. Obviously not straight up copying someones work or ideas, but understanding the spirit or purpose of what your research uncovers.

    Thanks for the book recommendation.

  5. Michael Albany

    11/11/2014 4:24 pm

    I have to disagree with #4. I can’t create on paper. I can talk a blue streak but anything and everything I create is done electronically. Now removing distractions by removing wifi form the conference room and sinking inside the building where there is little or no signal for cell phones? OKL I can deal with that. Removing tools though, nope. Manage the tools, don’t remove them. If one person create with paper, another with computers/tablets, and another with clay, all will be in that room.