Let’s talk about brainstorming today. It’s my favorite technique to use whenever a problem has me stumped, I don’t know what to do next, I feel overwhelmed, or I encounter some sort of road block. You can brainstorm by yourself, with a partner, or in a group.
To brainstorm, you simply throw out any and all ideas that pop into your head. Don’t judge, don’t edit yourself, just get it all out there. While a lot of what you come up with is utterly useless, it helps you refine ideas and start thinking creatively. The fact that much of what comes out of a brainstorming session won’t be used doesn’t matter because the few ideas that do work are well worth the time and effort spent.
When you’re brainstorming by yourself, it’s helpful to write down your ideas. You can brainstorm with a pen and notebook, use a word document on your computer, or other tools like mind-mapping software for example. The most important thing is that you have a way to record your ideas and then go back and organize them later.
When you’re brainstorming in a group, writing things down isn’t always necessary, but it can be helpful to have a few notes written down on a notepad, a shared digital document, or a white board.
The reason brainstorming works so well is because it allows you to quickly tap into your creative thinking. We’ve talked in an earlier post that you have to go past all the obvious answers before you can start to look at a problem with fresh eyes and from a different angle.
A lot of different ideas will come up in a good brainstorming session. Often something small will spark another idea and another. This is when you’re really starting to tap into the creative thinking part of your brain. It’s also why it’s important not to judge or discount thoughts in a brainstorming session. Get it out there and put it on paper. You never know what will spark the one idea that will turn out to be the perfect solution.
When you’re brainstorming by yourself, it’s OK to take your time. Get the first flow of ideas out there and then walk away. Come back a little later with fresh eyes and see what you can add. If you’re brainstorming in a group, it’s important not to judge or ridicule. Don’t dismiss an idea, no matter what. It doesn’t matter that you know this won’t work. What’s important is to get the thought out there and allow it to inspire the other members of your team.