Let’s be sure we understand what we mean by brainstorming. It’s an activity which deliberately sets out to unearth or discover ideas. It’s one thing to say to somebody, ‘what do you think is a good idea’ or ‘do you think this would work’? It’s another thing to go brainstorming. Remember brainstorming is not new. It’s been around in all sorts of business situations for ages and it works.
There are heaps of examples of people who will point to a brilliant success in their business which came about because the creative juices were allowed to flow. In short brainstorming is a structured way to look for ideas or solutions. You can try brainstorming by yourself but it is nearly always better to do it with someone else. Too big a group and you may be inundated with ideas and not be able to notate them effectively. And as a manager or person selecting people to be in a brainstorming group, you might find that some people are likely to be more involved and be active participants depending on the other people in the group.
So while we now know exactly what brainstorming is and why we use it, it’s also important to know that there are good and bad ways of going about brainstorming.Just because you are doing the brainstorming doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will get a solution or the great ideas you looking for. But it certainly helps if you know some of these practical steps. Put them into practice and your chances of having a really successful brainstorming session increase and possibly increase markedly.
- Who is in your brainstorming group?
- Nothing is out of place.
- The sky is the limit.
- Use tools, equipment and other practical devices.
- Set certain limits.
As to who you have in your brain storming group will depend largely upon your business. If you have very few employees you have far fewer options than somebody who has dozens of employees. But aside from wondering about people who may influence or impress others, it’s always good to vary the members of your brainstorming group. Certainly give everyone a try. Just because a person seems quiet and unlikely to be forthcoming with lots of ideas doesn’t mean that the brainstorming session won’t bring out the best in them.
It’s really important that you don’t become judgmental. If somebody comes up with an idea which you might think is crazy or irrelevant or out of place and if you say so, two things can happen here. You could be wrong and you could be putting down what turns out to be a brilliant idea. And secondly, you could cause a person to become less inclined to come up with suggestions. You could kill off their enthusiasm.
The sky really is the limit when it comes to brainstorming sessions. Just because somebody comes up with an idea which seems far too grandiose and out of place for your somewhat smaller operation, don’t reject it out of hand. There might be aspects of this grandiose idea which could work really well in your situation. It’s just a matter of avoiding being prejudiced or judgmental. Take a practical approach to your brainstorming sessions. The more physical items you have the better. These could include a white board, colourful sticker or emblems which are placed on display boards, butcher’s paper and drawing materials and all sorts of hands-on type material. Don’t fall into the situation where people simply sit and call out an idea or suggestion. Remember the old adage that we remember 40% of what we hear, 60% of all we see and 80% of what we participate in.
Get people participating.And finally it’s important that you do have some parameters or boundaries on your brainstorming session. There are some who say it will work better if you put a specific time limit on it. It forces people to keep coming up with ideas. And if you have two or more separate groups doing brainstorming on a similar topic, having a finishing time introduces the competitive element.
Finally, if you have a specific goal in mind, brainstorming can be a brilliant solution. It can be used to solve a problem. You highlight a specific issue which needs a resolution. You brainstorm for answers. It may be that new ideas occur during the session but with your goals in mind you brainstorm and get to fix your problem or find that elusive solution. Any new ideas become a bonus.
What are some specific brainstorming techniques?
Edward de Bono promotes a technique known as Six Thinking Hats. This technique is better suited to individuals aimed at helping them overcome a problem and become productive and positive again.
Each hat has a different colour and a different purpose. There’s the blue hat for managerial purposes helping you direct and chart your progress. The white or neutral hat represents collecting information for future use. The red hat calls upon your intuition. The black hat is all about pessimism and the yellow hat is the opposite dealing with optimism. The final or green hat is the think-outside-the-box hat, a signature talking point from de Bono.
It can take a while to master the six hat technique but those who have swear by its importance and impact for good.
Mind mapping is a physical exercise in which you use paper and coloured pencilsto record your thinking. As a result your paper will become a finished ‘work of art’and have a simple graphic or image involving numbers, colours, words, logic and spatial relationships. You can see your logic in a diagram. You want to discuss ideas and mind mapping facilitates this and makes the explanation so much clearer.
The Stepladder Technique is a sort of blindfold approach to brainstorming. Sometimes people are intimidated or reluctant to join in because of the ideas from others or their status within the group. With the stepladder concept, everyone contributes ideas privately and in writing before they are presented to the group as a hold. There are dozens of brainstorming techniques and finding them and those which work well for your situation is a task for every manager or entrepreneur.