Brainstorming is one of the best ways to come up with original ideas. But it’s also one of the most common ways to get stuck in a rut.
For this reason, it’s important to know how to brainstorm, how to structure brainstorming sessions and how to make sure that your brainstorming sessions are as effective as possible.
In this article, I am going to cover 11 simple (yet surefire) ways to get the most bang for your buck out of all future brainstorming sessions you take part in.
So, let’s dive in!
1. Ask better questions.
One of the biggest misconceptions about brainstorming is that it is supposed to be an entirely “creative” process. In reality, brainstorming is a highly analytical process that involves solving problems. By asking better questions, the brainstorming process can be more effective.
2. Set a timer.
When you brainstorm, a timer can be your best friend. You won’t be able to spend as much time on each idea, but you’ll feel more pressure to come up with something.
This will push you to come up with more ideas, and have you thinking more outside-the-box.
The last thing you want to do is get caught up in a single idea for too long, especially if it’s an idea that isn’t very good.
By setting a timer, you can keep yourself from going down a bad path for too long, and you won’t be as worried about missing an idea that could have been really good.
3. Use visual prompts.
One of the most important things to do is to have visual prompts. Visual prompts can be images, quotes or words that help you to be inspired.
Visual prompts could be in the form of Post-it notes, whiteboard scribbles, online mindmaps, or a dedicated notebook to help you organize and visualize your thoughts.
As you come up with ideas, you can write them on different Post-it notes, which will help you organize and prioritize your thoughts, as you can easily move them around into a specific order of your choosing.
Or you can write down your ideas on a whiteboard, which is especially helpful if you have a lot of people in the room.
Brainstorming is like a game of Charades. Participants in a brainstorming session should be given a topic and a short period of time to prepare an answer.
During the session, the idea is to get your team to act out their answers or draw them. In this way, they will not be thinking about the words they’re using, but the actions they’re performing and the images they’re creating.
Pictures are worth a thousand words and can easily trigger ideas that aren’t available to you when you are speaking.
4. Get more people involved.
While brainstorming can (and sometimes should) be done alone, the most powerful way comes from a group of like-minded individuals working together.
Since brainstorming is a technique that encourages people to generate a large number of ideas, having more minds involved increases the chances of striking idea gold!
It is basically a structured approach to creativity. In business, brainstorms are used to identify problems and generate solutions.
The goal of brainstorming is to generate a large number of ideas quickly. Quantity over quality at this stage is key! (More on that in a minute…)
5. Get more ideas out of every session.
Brainstorming is most effective when it is not just a one-time event. It is a process that should be repeated to get the best possible results.
By having multiple brainstorming sessions, it gives everyone involved time to process what was covered in each session. This will spark fresh ideas, and even more expanded brain dumps each time.
This also works with solo brainstorming too. By coming back to your notes multiple times after a significant break in between, your mind will be able to unlock more of its creativity, and you’ll be well on your way.
As with group sessions, this only gets magnified, and you’d be shocked about how many fresh ideas start coming to light.
So, even if you are going at it alone, it would be beneficial to have a friend or family member look over your notes with you from time to time just to get a fresh set of eyes (and brain) to help you get even more ideas out of your brainstorming sessions!
6. Focus on quantity not quality.
Brainstorming truly is a great starting point for any task. The point of a brainstorm is to get as many new ideas out on the table as possible.
You don’t have to worry about quality, just quantity. The best ideas will rise to the top. Remember: Any idea is better than no idea!
So don’t be afraid to throw out something that seems dumb at the moment, as what you may think is dumb at the time might be the tip of a much larger iceberg of ideas.
Just brain dump as many ideas as you can as quickly as you can. Try not to concentrate so hard, and just let your subconscious mind get to work. (It really is one of the best practices!)
And, yes… even if the ideas seem far fetched or somewhat unrelated.
Our minds are extremely powerful tools, and you’d be surprised what you can unlock by simply going with the flow and spitting out a large number of creative ideas as possible. (Yup, even the “dumb” ones!)
7. Think more creatively.
When you can’t figure out why your brainstorming sessions always leave you with a bunch of unoriginal ideas and a general feeling of disappointment, it’s time to get creative.
Creativity is the ability to think of new things, and it has nothing to do with competence or intelligence.
Anyone can be creative, but it’s more likely that a person who is creative is also intelligent and competent.
Contrary to what most people think, creativity is a skill that can actually be learned, practiced and improved upon. Interestingly, researchers from Ohio State University have found a new way of teaching creativity using something called “narrative theory“ which utilizes encouragement in the same way that kids are encouraged when they make up an imaginary story.
Simply put, it shows that anyone can become more creative. You can learn more about it here: https://studyfinds.org/train-anyone-to-be-creative/
8. Use a brainstorming app.
It can be hard to get the creative juices flowing, but there are a bunch of techniques and apps that can help you get the most out of each brainstorming exercise.
One of the most effective methods for brainstorming is the idea of a mind map. You can make a mind map on a piece of paper or you can use an app like iThoughts HD to make them electronically.
What’s great about mind maps is that they help you to see all of your ideas in one place. They also help you to connect your ideas with each other and build off of them.
More and more phones are now coming already equipped with apps that are designed to help you organize your ideas, as well as come up with new ideas.
One of the most popular apps is called Evernote.
Evernote is the ultimate app for helping you organize your thoughts. It allows you to collect everything online. That means you can save articles, and images that you find online.
But it also allows you to take notes, organize information and save reminders for the future.
Not only that, the Evernote app is completely free, and it doesn’t matter what you want to save, you can pretty much save anything with it.
The app itself is very user friendly, and there are many places to get the latest tutorials on how to use the app, specifically, how to organize your notes.
You should definitely check this out if you need help organizing your thoughts. Not only does it collect important information, but it’s also a great way to save memories.
It’s a great tool for students and business executives who are constantly on the go.
9. Make it about the idea, not about the person (group brainstorming techniques).
Now this rule is more geared towards group brainstorming, but it is definitely a very important to keep in mind.
Brainstorming together is a great way to get a lot of ideas out, but it can also be a great way to tear people down, like if someone suggests an idea that’s “weird” or “stupid”.
The problem with this is that then it becomes more about the person’s feelings, and less about the idea. Do your best to make it about the idea, not about the person.
One of the biggest challenges in any group discussion is getting people to share their ideas and collaborate. This can be difficult to achieve when people are worried about being judged or criticized by others.
The best way to solve this problem is to remove the focus from judging each other and set it on improving the idea.
By shifting the focus away from the people and toward the idea during team brainstorming exercises, you can help everyone feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts.
This can be done by using “I” statements, acknowledging the contribution of others and making everyone aware of the goal of creating a great idea, not of proving who is the best person to do it.
10. Make sure everyone gets a say.
This rule also (obviously) pertains to group brainstorms.
As I have already mentioned, brainstorming is a great way to get some fresh ideas on how to solve a problem and to get team members to feel engaged in the project.
It can also feel like a huge waste of time if you’re sitting in a meeting room with two people and they’re doing all the talking while you stare into space and think about how much you don’t want to be there.
One of the most important things when brainstorming as a group is to make sure everyone gets a say.
If you tend to dominate the conversation, try asking people for ideas even before you’ve come up with any of your own. It’ll encourage other people to contribute, and it’s likely to lead to more ideas.
It’s also useful to get everyone to write down their ideas on a whiteboard, on Post-It notes or even on their own laptop, so people aren’t just waiting for their turn to speak.
This will help everyone to focus on what they’ve heard, and it means you can easily build on other people’s ideas.
11. Admit that you don’t need a perfect solution.
Brainstorming can be fun and it can be exhausting, but it does not have to be frustrating.
There are two effective ways to avoid frustration. The first is to come into the brainstorming session with the idea that you are not going to have a perfect solution.
You are just going to have a lot of ideas. Your first goal is to get as many ideas out on the table as possible. The second is to be willing to throw out your best idea if someone else has a better one.
This process is known as divergent thinking. You are looking to get as many ideas as possible. Having an idea that is “good enough” is great.
The important thing is to get all of the ideas out on the table first. Later, you will have the opportunity to sort through them and pick the best ideas.
Basically, if you get caught up in trying to get a perfect solution and don’t accept that you can improve on it later, you won’t get any ideas at all.
Conclusion: You will find it much easier to brainstorm when keeping these rules in mind!
Brainstorming is a very important tool used in just about every industry. The ability to find new and innovative ways to solve problems and improve your business can help propel you ahead of your competition.
It’s also a great way for colleagues to work together and bond over a common goal. No matter how big or small the problem, it’s important to get the team together and evaluate their thoughts on the problem.
Because brainstorming is a great way to relieve stress, relax, and cut through the chatter to find out solutions and improvements that are sure to benefit the company.
Most of these rules / principals also work for solopreneurs (when applicable). So that sums it up.
Before jumping into your next brain dump session, be sure to try and incorporate at least some of these 11 simple rules for brainstorming!
About David Gracey
Founder of SuperMindHacker.com
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