There are a host of tools for generating ideas but all of them have the following basic guidelines in common:

  1. Defer Judgement – Nothing restricts the flow of new ideas more than a nasty comment or harsh laughter. Now is not the time to decide if an idea is feasible or violates the Rules of the Road either.
  2. Seek Quantity – More is better. It is interference to comment on the ideas but not to encourage plenty of them. When they first seem tapped out, ask for ten more.
  3. Encourage the Wild and Crazy – It is much easier to tone things down than push them up later.
  4. Look for Combinations – Great ideas often build off one another. Once an idea is put forward it belongs to the team and the team should be encouraged to extend or modify ideas already on the table.

Brainstorming is probably the most popular tool for generating ideas. Use it early and often. I recommend giving everyone a piece of paper and a pencil. For elementary teams the TM can act as scribe but must write down just what’s said (if it’s too long, have a team member restate it shorter). Have each team member state one idea at a time. If team members think of something out of turn they write a reminder on their paper. If a team member doesn’t have an idea they can pass. The key here is to keep the process moving and not get bogged down. Speaking of bogging down, do not discuss how things could be done or why they can’t be at this stage. Anything can be done or seem to be done with enough imagination. If team members have an idea of how to do something have them write it down for later.

Most solutions involve a story and some technical element so break the problem into its component parts:

  • characters
  • setting
  • conflict/goal
  • technical element(s)

The team can generate ideas for each element separately or as complete packages.

Tip #1: Save the lists of ideas until the end of the season. They may be valuable if something goes wrong or the team needs to add something later.

Tip #2: Transfer the characters, settings and situations to cards for Improv practice. Great for Instant Challenge story building exercises and vital for Improv Teams. Draw a random card from each deck and have the team develop a short skit.