5 Tips for Effective Brainstorming

Written by  Lina Abascal and Gog Zalibekyan / 20 March 2016
5 Tips for Effective Brainstorming
Brainstorming can be fun, we promise! And the results are even better. But getting started and making sure it’s productive aren’t always the easiest things. Sometimes, it can be intimidating to actually say or write down an idea that up until now, you’ve never told anyone about. It can be easy to feel like you’re being silly or not sounding the smartest, but throw out all of these insecure thoughts and let your mind run wild. Some of the most successful ideas have come from a good old fashioned brainstorming session free of judgement. The key is to make those brainstorming sessions as productive as possible. Whether you’re making a company decision at work, thinking of starting your own business, or even making a fun decision like your next vacation or how to decorate, these tactics can be applied. Good luck and happy brainstorming.
Start with questions.
Simple questions like: “What?” “Why?” and “How?” are a great place to start. Asking yourself (and anyone else involved) questions is a great starting point to jump start and get to the core of your decision. They serve as conversation starters. Anything that is done without reason is rarely successful. Figuring out what questions you need to answer, what actions you need to take, and what your desired results are is important to know before making any major moves.

Quantity matters.
We know, we’re more of quality over quantity people too. For brainstorming, it’s important to throw that mentality out the window. Spitballing, listing, rambling, and getting as many ideas as possible on paper (or a doc, or a whiteboard) is important. You don’t want to limit yourself to just a few best ideas, some of your less ideal ideas may spark conversation that results in your best idea yet! Make sure not to eliminate any ideas, delete anything, or start criticizing until after this exercise is over. You can even turn this into a game by trying to think of what may seem like an impossibly high number of ideas (whether it’s names, taglines, general ideas, or whatever you’re brainstorming) in a certain amount of time, which brings us to our next tip.

Play with speed.
When it comes to brainstorming, it’s worth it to be put on the spot. During your brainstorming session, we suggest playing with time constraints. This almost “gamifies” the experience by asking someone to come up with as many ideas or words as they can in 60 seconds. This will help cut out any fear you may have and get your brain working on overdrive, it also helps you come up with a large quantity of ideas that you can then review and edit later. Make sure to have a time constraint on your overall brainstorming session, not only the games you play during it. Having a firm start and end time can help you and your team take it more seriously and get to work sooner. It also helps you from burning out and extending your brainstorming session too long when your brain is out of commission.

Have some structure.
So we’ve discussed timing, questions, quantity. Have some goals with your brainstorm, and structure it based on those. Perhaps the first 10 minutes you discuss your goals and write some key goals on the whiteboard, then each person participating shares their thoughts about the goals. Then you can move into your first exercise, possibly thinking of 10 ideas/terms in 60 seconds. Splicing conversations between both shorter and longer form exercises helps keep every intrigued, on their toes, and ideas flowing. Stick to the schedule you create and make sure everyone participating is briefed on the flow.

Get visual.
You’ve probably seen images like venn diagrams, idea webs, or even just doodles come up in brainstorms. Sometimes getting an image on paper as you brainstorm can help visualize your thoughts. Something like an arrow between two ideas, a circle around a major point, or writing something in extra large font can say a lot about where your head's at during the brainstorm. We suggest snapping a quick cellphone picture of anything you draw during your brainstorm so you can reference it later.

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