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That phrase can make you smile or cringe, depending on who says it.

Nothing makes me more frustrated than entering a room, tasked to think, with no structure behind it. That is not a brainstorm. That is a shitstorm.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always been a structured thinker. What is the problem we are solving/what do we want to achieve? What are the insights we can work from? What do we want to leave the room with?

I’ve always prided myself in setting a room up for success. I’ve read myriad books, observed others and honed different techniques and exercises to facilitate brainstorms that elicit seeds, nuggets and big ideas from people’s minds. Aligning ideas with a specific objective takes work and a lot of planning. It takes knowing who’ll be in the room, what their strengths are, what their attention span is. It takes the right depth of insights to drive the right type of thinking and ideation.

I’m pretty good at it.

However, sometimes even the biggest overachiever has to admit they can’t do everything themselves. (No really its true, we can’t).


Scenes from our offsite @meetnyc

A photo posted by Jess Seilheimer (@jaeselle) on

Calculated risk and reward

This week, I produced a large multi-disciplinary ideation session of 20+ people. Research, insights, logistics…the whole nine. For it to be successful I knew I wouldn’t be able to facilitate it myself for multiple reasons, lack of neutrality being the largest. Everyone knows the key to a successful brainstorm is having a neutral facilitator, who is unbiased; their only job to tease out ideas from the group.

Jennie, a planner on my team introduced me to Mitch Ditkoff from Idea Champions. When I first met Mitch on the phone I knew he was our guy within 10 minutes. Aside from his highly credentialed and impressive background, he was so personable. Likeable. Infectious energy. No bullshit. Asked the right questions. Whip Smart. Witty. Met him in person and the spark was 10 fold.

Done, done and done.

Wild risks, side of wisdom with my fav combo @carlsorvino @humblematter

A photo posted by Jess Seilheimer (@jaeselle) on

Fast forward 3 weeks of agenda framework, collaboration and logistical coordination we arrived at the morning of our brainstorm. I entered the offsite space (offsite spaces, btw are key to getting people out of their comfort zone); my confidence in Mitch was sky high and couldn’t wait for the day to unfold. I knew everyone would be in for such a treat.

A treat it was. I thought I was good at facilitating brainstorms. But Mitch. Wow. WOW. If you are inspired by making cool stuff and get excited by great insights, strategy and ideas you should explore the specialized skills and mindset of a professional brainstorm facilitator. AKA professional problem solver, part storyteller, part historian, part improv actor, part imaginative magician, part professional child in an adult body. He was captivating, believable and motivating. He used very interesting analogies and techniques to prime our thinking and additional techniques to synthesize and expand our thinking even further. He would probably shoot me if I gave away his proprietary methods, so I won’t. But I will tell you I learned so much and while I’ll never be able to do what he does, there are definitely tricks I’ll take back to my strategic arsenal.

You know you had a successful brainstorm when it’s 4pm and people are STILL generating ideas and contributing to a plethora of ideas we’d already generated. You know it’s even better when colleagues are sending you even more ideas at 11:30pm while doing dishes.


A smarter way to think.

An old boss once told me, you are only as successful as the people you surround yourself with- hire for your weaknesses and they will support your strengths. I believe there is so much power in your network. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without my network of people and partners I’ve met through the years who make me a stronger individual. I also believe we trust and invest in people, not services or companies.

If you need to facilitate a brainstorm, need to plan an innovation session—TRUST ME when I tell you Mitch is your guy, place your trust in him. Ideas are not a commodity when they are great.

brainstorm group pic


Caveat: Views and opinions are my own. I was not encouraged nor incentivized to write this review. If there were a Yelp for strategic partners and generally cool and creative people who live in Woodstock, NY I would have posted this there.



right brain left brainGone are the days when planners *just* research, analyze, theme and provide insights…and stop there. I’ve always had a very strong belief that the best planners & strategists who have made things (eg: digital products & experiences) have the best real world insight and experience.

I am the type of planner and creative strategist who loves to identify a need/problem and make something to solve it. I spent most of 2013-2014 solving my own need to scratch an entrepreneurial itch and I was able to work on some amazing initiatives & projects which included launching a startup called Birdi on Indiegogo, something I have never done before. So, like anyone interested in #DIY or #HowTo I started with the experts– Indiegogo themsleves; who have a seriously strategic playbook on crowdfunding. We were also extremely privileged to have access to Sonny Vu as a mentor and advisor (if you’ve even seen or heard about Misfit Shine, you’ll know why this was an absolute gift of knowledge).

Last September 2014, Planningness PDX focused on the entrepreneurial mindset, startups & the maker movement. I had a great opportunity to share what I had learned, and present best practices in a session titled:

How to Launch a Crowdfunded Product
- Crowdfunding Trends
- Crowdfunding 101
- Marketing Playbook
- Case Study: Birdi
- Breakouts (mock product campaigns)

Planningness PDX 2014 // How to Launch a Crowdfunded Product from Jess Seilheimer

I haven’t hacked anything major from inception to delivery in a few months and that itch has returned. I’m hoping Planningness 2015 (held May 14-15 in the awesome city of Toronto this year) will bring forth my favorite collection of creative strategists, planners and makers and provide me the inspiration I’m craving.

I believe in sharing what we learn amongst the open ideation community. Please use the comments section below to hit me up with any questions and I hope to see you in Toronto in a few months!


Aside from my love of documentaries focused on the creative industry…I LOVE conversations and commentary around the purpose and utility of the Creative Brief.

I always have.

People in advertising get stuck on “truths” and end up complicating briefs. Shocker. I have always approached the creative brief by simplifying the complex and igniting a customer desire through “flexible limitations & invitations” (also mentioned in this video). Not too prescriptive and not blue sky. Gives the creative team room to explore.

I invite you to watch Briefly. (video embed below) What makes this video special is the intersection of 3 industry perspectives: advertising, architecture and technology.


“The end goal of Briefly is to help inform and inspire future generations of collaborators to write better briefs and manage the briefing process differently in order to help lead to exceptional creative results.”

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What a year it’s been.

Last June I started doing some soul searching into what was next for me, redefining who I was professionally and personally. I was fortunate to have worked through the digital turbulence of 2009- 2012 when agencies and brands focused on defining and honing their “digital” acumen and capability.

I call it the GDP (Great Digital Pivot).

be the change

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Will social agencies become media buyers or will media agencies learn social content strategy?

I literally have been talking about this for over a year and people thought I was crazy.

I distinctly remember sitting on the beach in Montauk last summer discussing this topic with one of my friends (who also works in the social space, and she agreed with me) I said— “Every algorithmic change Facebook has made over the last year has decreased the organic reach for brands and indicator this will continue to happen. When will people realize that a community manager’s current role is not sustainable unless they are trained as media buyers.”


Jan you dont have any friends

Everyone is talking about how Facebook’s drop in organic reach has changed the social game to a pay to play market.  Facebook Facebook Facebook . The thing is Facebook is NOT the only social platform on the planet—its just the biggest, everyone’s most popular pretty blue default platform. Brands can’t reach “their” consumer audiences anymore (audiences are  essentially rented via the platform they engaged with them on—they don’t “own “ them or have access to them outside of that platform.) || Read more »

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