“Regular Brainstorming is as critical to an organization as regular exercise to your health. It creates a responsive and innovative culture.” ~Tom Kelley
You might be a manager at a company, an entrepreneur or a an employee organizing a meeting, you could be starting out on building a new app or an innovative tool or gadget. And you could be just another job hunter in a group trying to work through a plan on a successful career or job hunt.
What’s your first step – to gather ideas – to brainstorm.
There are several ideas that come to you as you visualize your product, or just the best possible solutions to your problem. Some of the possible solutions could be bizarre, some practical and some not-so-practical. But each of them excites you to a new possibility. How do you proceed?
Trial and error can be costly and time consuming; the most efficient way to bring your ideas to life lies in the success of brainstorming and planning on what the ultimate product or solution would be like.
Howsoever seldom you might have indulged in brainstorming, but you cannot claim that you have never brainstormed. Brainstorming is integral to our daily lives.
This article takes you in-depth on the “art of brainstorming” and how to make best out of it.
What is Brainstorming?
According to Wikipedia:
Brainstorming is a group creativity technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution of a problem.
In 1953 the method was popularized by Alex Faickney Osborn in a book called Applied Imagination. Osborn proposed that groups could double their creative output with brainstorming.
So the keywords here are: group activity, ideas, solution to a problem. Other than this explanation, brainstorming promotes exchange and reinvention of ideas as well. It promotes team building, creative thinking and simply perks up the process of evolution of your idea!
When and How do we Brainstorm
Well almost every time we have a problem. You may need new ideas or solution to a problem and brainstorming helps you to branch out on the problem and find some effective and possible solutions of which you may choose those best applicable to your particular situation. Also note that brainstorming can be done on your won also when you research, categorize and analyze the solutions to a problem all on your own. However it is most effective when done in a group or with those you trust or are important to that issue. Brainstorming in a team brings out diverse and perhaps more qualified solutions to the problem since the people in your brainstorming session may bring in fresh, experienced perspective enabling you to find a better solution to the problem. Also it is fun to brainstorm in a group, you never know where one solution or discussion may take you – to a completely new idea or just a happy healthy discussion which freshens and lightens up your day! In addition many teams encourage brainstorming sessions in groups to strengthen teamwork and to spot the leaders (or movers or shakers) in the team.
Different Brainstorming Techniques
Mush has been said around on the different brainstorming techniques so this article will not attempt to reinvent the wheel or restate the obvious, I suggest you read some tips mentioned below and also read some relevant topics in the retargets section below.
Some Articles on Brainstorming Techniques:
- There is a list of around 25 brainstorming techniques listed on the Personal Excellence blog, read for further enlightenment.
- Creative Brainstorming Techniques from Entrepreneur Magazine
- Josh Linkner on Forbes.com has some great tips for you – The 10 Commandments Of Brainstorming.
Brainstorming Software and Tools
In world of apps and brilliant software that can or claim to manage almost every problem in your work life, there would be some brainstorming software and tools which assist us along the way.
- Mindtools: A very informative article on brainstorming comes from the MindTools website and here you can also get the Brainstorming Toolkit for free. While on this website don’t forget to look up Mind Maps, very interesting and might make your brainstorming sessions productive and efficient.
- Microsoft Visio is also one of the software available that enables you to transfer ideas on paper or computer. As the MS website explains: “You’re in a brainstorming meeting. You have a ton of ideas. Members in your team are contributing even more. How do you quickly capture these ideas while creating a record you can analyze, edit, and act on later? When you create a diagram in Visio while you meet or brainstorm, you create a visual archive of your ideas. The diagram can help you quickly recognize and order themes and hierarchies, making it a snap to pull a plan of action out of a chaotic idea-generating session.”
- Mindjet: According to their website: MindManager uses a free-form visual format that mirrors the way your brain processes information, so it’s easy and intuitive to use.
- ConceptDraw MINDMAP Brainstorming software – (according to their website) is ideal for effective brainstorming, creative thinking, idea generating, lateral thinking, creativity and problem solving. It provides powerful tools and versatile means for both personal and team brainstorming sessions.
Efficient Brainstorming Lead to Actions
Similar to the difference in making a meeting efficient or meaningless, brainstorming sessions can prove to be very fruitful or just go off tangent without any concrete results; it all depends on how efficiently you had planned and executed these sessions – either on individual brainstorming or group sessions.
“The ideas that come out of most brainstorming sessions are usually superficial, trivial, and not very original. They are rarely useful. The process, however, seems to make uncreative people feel that they are making innovative contributions.”
-A. Harvey Block
Always remember the main aim of the brainstorming session; it is to present a list of many possible solutions to your problem or idea.
- Do not filter any suggestions in the first run. The idea is to have a mega list of all proposed ideas, trimming is not a priority now. Never cut short on any idea or presentation deeming it impossible, because there are very few things which are truly impossible. You can be pleasantly surprised how possible solution number 3 and 56 combined together can present the ultimate answer you were looking for.
- Another tip: “Anyone can brainstorm”, you may be surprised by your 6 year old presenting a simple solution to your problem which your complex brain had never thought of before – so be prepared to be surprised and do not hold any preconceived notion about anyone – be open and receiving in your brainstorming session.
Now with the aim clear in the mind let’s explore some efficient ways to brainstorm.
Team brainstorming sessions: if you are holding team sessions ensure that each and every member of the team knows what they are expected to do during the meeting and what preparations must be done before they step in the room or telephone /web conference for the brainstorming session.
- Templates or worksheets must be circulated within the team at least a week or 10 days before your brainstorming session, it gives them the time to set aside time for this task and not jeopardizing their own work deadlines. The bottom line is prepare yourself first; be clear on your expectations of the session and convey accordingly.
- They must be clear on the time bound meetings expectations; if they can be given only 10 minutes to present their ideas and later on 15 minutes for general discussion – convey upfront.
- Conducive Environment for your meeting is equally important. If the brainstorming sessions are going to be half day or day long, ensure that you give enough stretch time and meet other needs as good food, drinks and just relaxing-getting-to-know-each-other-time. Stressful situations most often do not result in creative results.
- Tools and Software simplify the process. As mentioned above you may use some available tools and software to record and structure the session discussions. You may also poll others to find out what has worked the best for them before – if they had been in other brainstorming sessions.
- Encourage the group members to form smaller groups and present ideas after certain time. Two heads together often can present a better idea when working together. The idea is to foster deeper creative thinking.
- Encourage participants for follow-up. At times some of the best ideas strike to us after the session is over. Poll participants if a follow-up session would be beneficial to the group or if they would like to convey ideas individually to you later on. But make sure you have a date in mind, do not leave this proposal hanging to “any other future date”.
Retargets on Brainstorming
- HOW has some good tips on 14 Ways to Brainstorm More Effectively
- InnovationTools has a wealth of relevant articles on brainstorming
- A website dedicated to brainstorming Brainstorming that Works offers many other articles and tips on effective brainstorming (this webpage has a lot of links and with too much information there is a possibility to get lost in the information maze, so click on those that you really seek info on)
- Some other good tips you can find here on BusinessBalls brainstorming technique for problem-solving, team-building and creative process
- There have been numerous books published on Brainstorming and you can search these on Amazon website.
Brainstorming excites creative thinking, present opportunity to think differently and provide a new twist to the solution, through brainstorming sessions arise the possibilities of something new, your ideas may find new solutions or even new ideas may sprout thereafter. So, next time when you are ready to start something new, give brainstorming the utmost priority.
What are your thoughts and experience on holding efficient brainstorming sessions. Pls share in comments below.