Brainstorming 101

Updated: Apr 28

"Creativity can be taught, nurtured and enhanced. It does not belong solely to the artist amongst us, and is certainly not limited to the gifted." - Chiegeonu Aga.

A few years ago, while working as part of a think tank, I was introduced to brainstorming.

Once a week we would gather in the conference room and spend all day throwing out ideas/suggestions around research topics.

Nothing was off-limits - each suggestion would then be written down on a huge whiteboard for all the other team members to see. Later on, we would remove those that did not fit our immediate framework - however, we didn't discard them; rather we broke them down further into immediate, medium-term and future issues. In my work as a business coach, I often use this 'mental cleansing' with my clients. At the beginning of our process I usually ask them to get a notebook and write everything down - every idea, every suggestion, every option, no matter how 'out there'.

After a while, a pattern emerges; and it is at this point the vision becomes clear - and the work of refining the entrepreneurial goal begins. This also helps them to define their options, and focus their time, energy and resources on those areas that are executable within a specific timeframe.

However, for maximum effect the following steps are suggested: ☑️ Define the problem you want to solve: This allows you to stick to one challenge at a time. For example, one problem could be, 'How can I wake up earlier?' However, if while thinking about possible solutions you come up with a fantastic strategy for your product/service, write THAT down ALSO!!!! ☑️ Give yourself a time limit: Brainstorming is most effective when there is a set time limit. Additionally, if you're currently grappling with a personal/professional issue, you have ALREADY spent a lot of time THINKING about it. The suggested time is 20 - 30 minutes per issue/challenge. ☑️ Focus on Quantity over Quality: Write down EVERY. SINGLE. IDEA. and try to come up with as many solutions as possible - the 'more' the 'better'- since brainstorming allows individuals and groups to come up with creative solutions that will ACTUALLY work!!!

☑️ Don't Criticize: When you only have 20-30 minutes to come up with both ideas and suggestions/solutions, you should withhold ALL criticism. This is especially critical within groups, where big egos can clash and people may be less inclined to contribute. For brainstorming success, all input should be accepted and refined later on. ☑️ Welcome, ALL IDEAS - no matter how unusual, crazy or downright WEIRD: In a brainstorming session, ALL IDEAS ARE WELCOME!!!. Be imaginative. If you think of anything related to the challenge/issue, WRITE IT DOWN!!!. Always remember, unusual ideas can become million-dollar products/services (Think Spanx👙) Additionally, there are many ways to ensure that your brainstorming session carries over into your day-to-day. These include:

☑️ White Boards: For large groups, whiteboards are especially useful. It can be placed in a common area where it can be used as a reminder and a check to ensure that solutions are actually being applied. Groups/individuals can also revisit ideas if new information comes along and can readjust as required. ☑️ Journalizing: Writing in a personal journal allows for introspection as well as in the case of a personal challenge, closure. A year from now you can go back and see where you were and how much you've grown.

☑️ Apps: For optimal operationalization, apps such as Coggle, an online mind mapping tool, can be used to build diagrams and connect a theme to different ideas. Other apps such as Mindmeister and Lucid Chart, both web-based, can be used for individuals, groups, and organizations. As an added benefit, these tools allow the brainstorming sessions to be integrated into everyday use, via cloud storage/project management software. They are also Android and iOS compatible.

At the end of the day, You may already have a solution to the problem - be it personal, professional, skill-based or health-related.

Applying these steps will allow you to find the best possible outcome, using a systematic approach.

If you loved these suggestions, please leave a comment below.

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