19 Apr 2012


Here's a fun picture I found in the 1948 career book, How To Be A Successful Advertising Woman by Mary Margaret McBride:

"One agency technique of developing advertising-copy themes and merchandising and promotion programs is through idea-sessions, sometimes called "brain storms." The rule in brain-storming is absolutely no criticism. Anything goes. Nobody says "But that wouldn't work," or "How silly!" Try it yourself. Get a gang of your friends together - concentrate on a single problem. Watch how one good idea sparks another, how that sets off a third - and before you call it a day you may have some original and highly effective thinking on paper."
Anyone else out there believe that the people who are adamant that "there are no bad ideas in a brainstorm" are the kind of people who exclusively come up with horrible suggestions? (Based on their expressions in the photo, I think the plump brunette and the annoyed blonde on the right agree with me. That is the look of people who have just heard a stupid idea. Trust me, I am sadly VERY FAMILIAR with those glares.) Under normal conditions, the contributions of the unimaginative would be Darwin'ed out of contention, and so they use this weird brainstorm rule to swaddle their ideas in bubblewrap and trot them on stage as if we were all at a body-positive open-mic poetry slam and not at a business meeting.

Jen's Jerk-off Opinion of the Day: Crappy ideas shouldn't have a safe place.

I'm not saying we should attack ideas mercilessly (in business, be kind! Always!), I'm just saying we shouldn't pretend they're just as valid as a really creative / thoughtful / strategic suggestion. If there's an obvious problem with an idea, shouldn't that be pointed out before the team dedicates any more time to it?

What do you think?

Also ... don't you love it that in the picture above, "brain-storming" was still new enough to have quotation marks around it? Remember when they were so foreign to us that we had to use quoties around "web site" and "viral video" and "Spanx"? Aww ... those sweet, slimmer days of yesteryear.


MMM,  11:53 am, April 20, 2012  

I'm loving these finds, Jen! I hate brainstorming sessions for the exact reason that you mentioned - having to write down all the ideas even though you KNOW some of them are awful. I guess we're both jerks!

Tammy,  10:06 am, June 03, 2012  

The one in glasses and the woman to her right also seem a little shocked. Wonder what gingham jacket lady said, perhaps that she didn't like smoking in the office, or that doesn't Lysol her hoo-haw?

Kitty 1:02 pm, April 08, 2015  

New to your blog but felt I had to comment on an older post. I've been reading the crap out of some M.C. Beaton Historical 'Romances' (they kiss, ooOOoo) mostly set in Napoleonic times. Anyways, the term brain storm comes up a few times and back then it apparently meant a headache of sorts. Just thought I'd share that tid bit. I read your 50s Housewife Experiment and that was gold right there. I took a class in Advertising and Consumerism and yeah--there are MANY frightening ads for Lysol and Yeast - Apparently yeast could cure acne, bad bowels, freshen your breath and all sorts of other hooey. And deodorant back then was RED! They had some crazy shiz. Thanks for the laughs, hope this year treats you well!

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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