Brilliant Brainstorming Basics

Brainstorming is the process of generating ideas through intensive idea sessions. It can be done either individually or in groups. For individuals, it's the process of sitting down and trying to think up ideas. For groups, it's a more complicated and structured affair. In the realm of business, brainstorming is most often done in groups. Multiple brains are better than one. There's more chance someone will suggest the best solution, and you get many different perspectives.

When you brainstorm, you focus on a problem or topic and generate a huge list of ideas. You then go through the list and remove unsuitable ones and what you have left is the one idea or a few ideas you're looking for.

An important part of brainstorming is that participants are allowed to think outside the box. All ideas should be taken down and not judged. The process of evaluating the ideas is the next phase—the evaluation process. The brainstorming session should welcome the ridiculous, the crazy, the impossible, and the incredible. There is no bad idea in brainstorming, as long as it's focused on the topic, question, or problem at hand.

The wildest ideas are often the best ideas. What may seem ridiculous or incredible might be just the edgy, original, or innovative solution you're looking for. It's easier to make a crazy idea more practical than to make a dull but practical idea more interesting.

Keep It Focused.

There is no bad idea while brainstorming, but every idea needs to be on target. Keep the session focused on the specific goal at hand. It should be at the top of your mind. Define clearly the outcome you expect from the ideas you generate.

Choose a Good Venue.

The environment for brainstorm has a huge impact on the creativity of its members. Choose a comfortable location with few distractions for the session. This will help you keep it focused on and stimulate creativity.

Lay Down Ground Rules.

Make sure the structure of the session is clear to everyone involved. State the issue at hand clearly at the beginning of the session. Everyone involved will probably know this beforehand, but stating it at the top of the meeting again is a good refresher and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Set Time Limits.

Set time limits to your brainstorming sessions or parts of your sessions. This helps you maintain focus and also applies a bit of pressure. When you know you only have a limited time, it prevents you from over-thinking as you generate ideas. You can just get them down.

Take Breaks.

An excellent way to keep focus and not burn out is to take many breaks. Take short breaks to change your environment, move around, get your mind off the issue momentarily, and so on. Come back to it, refreshed and ready to let the ideas flow.

Make It Fun.

If you're brainstorming in a group, create a fun environment where everyone feels safe, and there is no judgment. You might introduce some game elements to make it easier for everyone. Assign a moderator who can help direct the session. The moderator can encourage quieter people to talk, enforce the session's time limit, and make sure it stays on track.

Action Step:

  1. Think about brainstorming sessions you've had in the past or those you've participated in recently. What were the successes and failures of the session? Did it give you the idea you were looking for? Why or why not?

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