How To Effectively Brainstorm

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In an ideal world, we would instantly know the most effective solution whenever we faced a challenge. However, it's not that easy to spontaneously come up with a genius idea in real life. We often need the right inspiration and motivation to lead us in the right direction. But this is where brainstorming can help. Brainstorming has been used for decades to generate ideas and create solutions to problems. That's when it works. It can also be a waste of time if you simply discuss random thoughts with no focus. If you want to generate great ideas, you need to be able to brainstorm effectively.

Here are seven tips to help you get the most out of your brainstorming sessions.

1. Gather your brainstorm supplies

Whether you are planning a group or a solo brainstorming session, you don't want to run out of essential supplies to record your ideas at the wrong moment. Keep a box of supplies ready, so you always have the tools to hand whenever you need them. Make sure it contains:

  • Whiteboard markers in different colours
  • Coloured pens, crayons and pencils
  • Erasers
  • Flip-chart paper
  • Sellotape for sticking up notes and pages on walls
  • Different coloured highlighters
  • A4 plain paper
  • Post-it notes
  • Sticky dots
  • Magazines.

2. Start with bad ideas

For a group brainstorm session to be effective, everyone needs to contribute. To help encourage people to feel relaxed and confident, it's a good idea to get everyone to come up with completely impractical, implausible, and downright ridiculous ideas. This is a great way to break the ice and get people feeling engaged. Once time has been spent on the terrible ideas and everyone's feeling relaxed, you can refocus the session onto brainstorming ideas that could potentially work. You never know, one of the bad ideas could spark some fresh thinking or be flipped into an idea that may even work!

3. Break down ideas and rebuild

To turn just a few ideas into many is to break them apart and build on them. You can break down general themes into more specific elements to help ideas to grow. Likewise, you can build up the general concepts to cover a wider perspective. For instance, ask each person to write down three suggestions, then have them swap with another person to build on these initial ideas. Continue to exchange these ideas around the group. The more solid ideas that emerge can lead to further discussions.

4. Play word games

Word games are great in helping to open up people's minds and inspire some out-of-the-box thinking. One common exercise is word association and starts with a relevant word to the product, service, or brand. You throw a ball to someone, and they have to say the first word that comes into their head on hearing that word. They then throw the ball to someone else, and they must come up with a word on the back of the previous word, so it continues. There should be someone writing down all the words that people come up with, and then later, the group can look at all the words thrown up and see if there is a pattern or an idea that pops up from them.

5. Create a mood board

Take inspiration from Pinterest and create storyboards that combine images, colours, words, and emotions to create a mood or feeling that can help spark ideas. These types of boards can be highly effective in improving information recall while generating new ideas. You can make physical boards by using paper and glue or create virtual boards online. These boards are particularly helpful when you need to develop new branding, imagery, and creative design concepts.

6. Try doodling

It's not unusual for a person to doodle while they are on the phone. Drawing little pictures is simply their subconscious minds at work and assisting the conversation. Doodling can boost your attention span, encourage creative insight, and free up both short and long-term memories. Surprisingly, it can help free our minds to think about familiar things in different ways, resulting in some rather exciting and unexpected connections. You can try drawing a specific item and see where it takes you. Once you've started it, you can pass it on to a colleague to continue seeing where they take it.

7. Change your space

It can help to get away from your usual surroundings and go somewhere new to aid fresh thinking. Changing your physical environment can help break down the norm and inject a fresh perspective. The ideal location will have good views and be an environment that provokes new thoughts. Even heading outdoors for your brainstorming session can make the activity much more productive. Changing your location can affect the way the brain works. Enriched environments speed up our brain's rate creates new neurons and neural connections, influencing your group's ideas.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your next brainstorming session is as effective and productive as possible.