Riding The Brainstorm With Robert Tercek

Robert Tercek is someone who everyone needs on their team. You will find him in the dictionary under the word creative, as you’ll soon see why.

He is a highly prolific creator of interactive content across every digital platform, from digital TV and game systems to the Internet and mobile networks. He was most recently president of digital media at The Oprah Winfrey Network, and before that senior vice president of digital media at Sony Pictures Entertainment. He co-founded five startup ventures, including 7th Level, which went public in 1993.

Robert Tercek

On Monday Tercek presented to a class of entrepreneurs in training at Founder Institute in Los Angeles on the topic of creative and effective brainstorming.

Creative thinking comes in handy when a business is under pressure to discover the next big thing, such as a breakthrough product that redefines a category or creates an entirely new niche. It always starts with an idea, of which there are usually plenty.

“Ideas are a dime a dozen,” he said. “Successful creativity is all about execution.”

The goal is to get the most creative thinkers together, which at times can be a bit like herding cats, really crazy cats.

“Creatives are outliers and unconventional,” said Tercek. “You have to tolerate and accept them.”

Yes, they are sometimes weird. They may dress or talk funny but getting them to work with you in business is no laughing matter.

“They can be difficult,“ Tercek said. “They have high energy and then turn catatonic when they need to store energy. They are highly intelligent but sometimes immature and very difficult. They are child like in nature but that is what enables them to discover.”

Creatives are masters at diverging, extending thoughts into totally new directions. What they don’t manage well is converging, drawing it all back to a point of execution.

“Knowing when to diverge and when to converge is key,” said Tercek, who explained how to put on a well planned brainstorming session.

For starters, don’t call for a meeting in 10 minutes and expect them to creatively illustrate the Theory of Relativity to a sixth-grade class. Give them extra time to ponder before pontification.

Keep senior management out of the room (including the lawyers!). Those allowed in must leave egos at the door. Encourage them to break down inhibition and strive for empathy and self awareness.

At this point all ideas are fair game. This is no time to criticize. And beware the person who is jealous and uncreative, who says things like, “We tried that before and it didn’t work.”

“They are idea assassins,” said Tercek. “Their goal is to kill the brainstorm. As a manager you need to get them out of the room.”

Allow the ideas to flow freely and suspend judgment. Appoint someone to write down each idea.

“Later on you can apply critical judgment and narrow the list,” said Tercek.

Here is where the execution comes in, creatively thinking about whether the idea works, is reliable, easy to understand and can be implemented. Then consider  time to market and time to revenue issues. No matter how good the idea, if not properly executed it’s wasted time.

“Don’t waste time tweaking and twiddling. It takes away from time to revenue,” he said.

You can learn more from Tercek about why innovative teams can fail here, and Tercek’s bio here.

Now, where’s my toga and hookah, and what’s your best brainstorming idea?

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One Response to Riding The Brainstorm With Robert Tercek

  1. Love it Brian, brainstorming is one of my favorite activities.

    Something a group of friends and I did last year was to get together for a evening of food and drink, except we brought along someone to record and transcribe all discussion.

    Was interesting to see what unfolded and what ideas came as a result. Highly recommended.

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