“Brainstorming” is a term that was created in 1948 by Alexa Faickney Osborn in his book Your Creative Power. In the ensuing years, the term has gained popularity and many people have utilized this creative method to inspire and stimulate new ideas. (Source: home-entrepreneurs.com) Ever since I can remember, throughout school and my professional career, I have been taught and encouraged to brainstorm for various projects and work tasks. Brainstorming should be a free-flowing process of stimulating ideas. However, it is more effective if you have a set procedure in place to assist you in achieving results. This article will discuss how to brainstorm effectively for real results in your business.
An Example of Brainstorming Effectively
Jimi Smoot is the Founder and CEO of Prosperio, a software platform which allows companies to buy online advertising directly from publishers. In a recent feature in Entrepreneur.com, Smoot shared some of his ideas on how to brainstorm “like it’s your job.” He has met many people who want to think up the next great business idea and escape from the 9 – 5 job. The only thing stopping them is the “lack of an idea.” Before founding Prosperio.com, Mr. Smoot worked in the innovations group of a major advertising agency. His main tasks were to think outside the box and come up with inventive marketing campaigns for companies like Kia Motors America, Dr. Pepper and the Snapple Group. In my opinion, that qualifies him as an authority on this issue of innovative brainstorming.
The following five steps are simple ways that Mr. Smoot shares on how to brainstorm like it’s your job:
1. Think of Brainstorming as a Team Effort – Don’t think you’re going to reinvent the wheel. Smoot advises that “there really aren’t any new ideas.” The ideas you brainstorm are going to be a compilation of things that have been done before. However, that’s good news for you. It shows that even if you have a not-so-spectacular idea, it can lead to better ideas. Working together with a team of brainstormers can be a good breeding ground for creativity.
2. Seriously Engage in the Creative Process – In order for the process to be effective, each person involved needs to think of the brainstorming procedure as a serious task. Smoot shares that many people aren’t effective because they think of the process as a chance to grab some beers and chat and hope they get ideas, rather than actually work at the process. It is important to schedule an actual brainstorming session and establish timelines. Assign a note taker. Give everyone a chance to participate and come prepared with a general agenda than jump off from there into creativity.
3. Cultivate a Fun Environment for Creativity to Thrive in – Priming the pump is when water or another liquid is used to draw up more liquid from a well that has already been tapped. Priming the Pump is an American idiom which has come to mean doing something in order to make something succeed. In Mr. Smoot’s innovation group, they had a “cool stuff” method to prime the pump of ideas. During each brainstorming session, they would take the time to start off by naming some cool things they’d all seen recently in the media, news or celebrity happenings. The purpose was used as a warm up to generate new ideas for the project on the table.
4. Disconnect in Order to Reconnect – Before the brainstorming session would even begin, all the participants would need to turn off cell phones and shut down computers and tablets and focus on the specific task at hand. Mr. Smoot and his group were highly effective in their brainstorming sessions because they cut out all outside distractions and focused on the creative process. They were serious about this idea because even in regard to notes, no technology was utilized. Notes were taken on paper or a whiteboard.
5. Designate Your Creativity Space – This is my favorite step in Mr. Smoot’s process. He drew from the experience of Sir Isaac Newton who generated the idea of gravity while thinking creatively in apple orchards. Mr. Smoot’s innovation team created a designated spot for brainstorming, called the Innovation Pad. All participants were encouraged to leave their egos and career ranks at the door and encourage all team members to think outside the box.
Other Resources to Learn Brainstorming Techniques
Scott Berkun is an author and motivational speaker on creative management techniques. He has a useful resource on How to Run a Brainstorm Meeting. In the article, he shares how to effectively run such a meeting. Role playing examples are also shared. Berkun provides brainstorming tricks to help you become more effective. Another great part of the article is that he provides information on post brainstorming assignments and how to implement your ideas.
Learning to brainstorm effectively for your business or organization is important if you hope to see real results for your efforts. Learning from others who have more experience than you is a way to cut your learning time in half. If you try to go it alone, it sometimes means having to overcome more obstacles than if you’d originally tried to learn from others. Mr. Smoot’s experience has taught me as a fledgling entrepreneur some helpful steps toward effective brainstorming. Remember to cultivate a team effort and seriously engage in the process. Make the environment fun so that creativity can thrive. Get rid of outside distractions and focus on the brainstorming process and find a specific space where you can think outside the box.