Creating a Think Bank

Nine tips for building an ideation team

No man is an island, and that’s especially true when it comes to ideas. An ideation team can spark the most creative thinkers to even greater heights. Here are nine tips for forming a helpful human think bank.

1. Start with the problem(s), not the solution(s). When you gather a team for times of ideation, don’t bring solutions to the table, bring problems. This can be difficult for us leaders because we often think meetings are more efficient if we just brainstorm previously suggested solutions. However, brainstorming the problems is where the real action happens. Plus, your team will be that much closer because you landed somewhere together.

2. Listen for laughter. If it’s not there, something is wrong. Team meetings—especially ones scheduled for creative thinking—should include lots of laughter. Without laughter, no one will feel comfortable presenting crazy ideas. And it’s with those crazy ideas that things really start to take shape.

3. Let vision lead, not dollar signs. I try never to start an ideation meeting telling people how much the budget is. It seems to always dampen the conversation when people feel that they have limits. I’d rather an idea that costs $1 million yet inspires everyone than a bunch of $100 ideas that are boring. This doesn’t mean you keep the budget hidden, but be careful to bring it out at the right time.

4. Invite people you don’t like. The usher that annoys you. The neighbor that plays her music too loud. The nursery volunteer who uses words such as blessed and precious in every other sentence. Invite them. They have a different way of looking at life (obviously!), and their perspective might be just the element needed to get everyone thinking big.

5. Invite people with unusual professions. Along the lines of inviting people you don’t like, try to invite people who are from completely different fields or professions. The opera singer. The coal miner. The lawyer. Invite several people with a wide variety of backgrounds. You’ll be surprised what kind of stuff these people think of.

6. Always change the size. I usually keep ideation teams to no more than five to seven people. The bigger the group the more difficult it is to get anything done. When you have more people in a group, each person feels less of a responsibility to contribute. Conversely, when you have fewer people in a group, everyone feels more inclined to weigh in.

7. Use the ranking system for brainstorm sessions. Write on a whiteboard any words or phrases that the team brainstorms for a specific problem. You may have 20, 30, perhaps 50 different things. No idea is bad; everything goes up there. Then close the brainstorming session and, revisiting each word or phrase, have everyone vote for which ones should stay up there. Put the number of votes next to each word or phrase. Then erase all of the lines except the ones that are in the top 15 to 20 percent of the votes. Go through the process once or twice more, depending on how many ideas and people you have. Once you get it narrowed down to two or three ideas, now you have something to work with—and everyone helped to get there.

8. Meet in different places. Don’t always meet in the same place. Go outside. Go to the aisles in a grocery store, the middle of mall food court, on a paddle boat in a lake. There are tons of options, and getting the setting right is very important.

9. Schedule ideation at prime times. Don’t schedule ideation meetings for times when everyone is tired or drained. Do them first thing in the morning or late at night when everyone has their second wind. It all depends on the people coming, so be intentional about when you meet.


Brad Abare is the director of communications for the Foursquare denomination, founder of the Center for Church Communication, and president of Personality, a communication and marketing consultancy.


Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Order Life in the Spirit to actively grow your ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Your congregation will stay saturated in God's Word, learn to hear His voice, understand their purpose and calling and move into an active role in your ministry.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Jentezen Franklin encourages church leaders to encourage their flocks to vote their values.

    Why We Must Count the Cost—and Vote

    There is a propaganda war that is raging in this country, and it is full of manipulation, lies, ...

  • Why did you choose the church you attend?

    7 Key Reasons People Choose a Church

    The real issue is not the intrigue of this research; it is what you and your church will do about ...

  • Have you ever had a cringe moment during your church announcements?

    The 7 Deadly Sins of Church Announcements

    Sometimes they just miss the mark, albeit unintentionally.

  • Some of these reasons for leaving the church are simply not plausible.

    7 Reasons People Leave Their Church During Crisis Times

    Some of the excuses are pretty extreme and, quite frankly, lazy.

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • Praying for leaders

    Failing to Do This Can Spell Disaster for the Church

    And it has the potential to destroy many lives.

  • Many of these issues are self-inflicted.

    10 Poisons That Will Kill Any Church

    Here is why the churches that die from them do so by their own hand.

  • Graveyard

    An Autopsy of a Deceased Pastor

    There are eight common patterns to look for.

  • Do yourself and her a favor. Take the target off your pastor's wife's back.

    Why Pastors' Wives Have a Target on Their Back

    Here are three instances of what we are doing to the wives of God's servants sent to ...

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders