Brainstorming refers to the practice of generating ideas and putting them down in concrete form, such as on a piece of paper or in a computer program. You can use brainstorming to force your brain to come up with new solutions to problems or ideas about a product.
Traditionally, brainstorming is a group activity. The energy of the group helps each person feed off everyone else. In addition to generating ideas, brainstorming can help you weave connected ideas together to form a cohesive whole.
However, there is no one correct way to brainstorm. Some people like to storm on their own, a pad of paper and a pen in hand, a cup of coffee close by. They like to get their ideas on paper before they consider discussing them with others.
Brainstorming may seem to lack constraints, but everyone must observe eight rules and have someone acting as facilitator.
- Set a time limit – Depending on the problem’s complexity, 15–60 minutes is normal.
- Begin with a target problem/brief – Members should approach this sharply defined question, plan or goal and stay on topic.
- Refrain from judgment/criticism – No-one should be negative (including via body language) about any idea.
- Encourage weird and wacky ideas – Further to the ban on killer phrases like “too expensive”, keep the floodgates open so everyone feels free to blurt out ideas (provided they’re on topic).
- Aim for quantity – Remember, “quantity breeds quality”. The sifting-and-sorting process comes later.
- Build on others’ ideas – It’s a process of association where members expand on others’ notions and reach new insights, allowing these ideas to trigger their own. Say “and”—rather than discourage with “but”—to get ideas closer to the problem.
- Stay visual – Diagrams and Post-Its help bring ideas to life and help others see things in different ways.
- Allow one conversation at a time – To arrive at concrete results, it’s essential to keep on track this way and show respect for everyone’s ideas