How To Brainstorm Sucessfully
Brainstorming is an art, but there is some science that can be used to help you get better at that art. This is an interesting process, but a good brainstorm session helps get the creative juices flowing, so just stick with me here.
I remember the first time I had to use this in college, the teacher dimmed the lights, put on some funky music and grouped us up. We then spent almost the entire class doing most of this exercise. It was quite the interesting experience.
One last note before we get into this, the more people you have working on this at the same time the better. Different eyes see different things. Add to that the critiquing that goes on, and the ability to bounce ideas around, and you have a recipe for coming up with lots of good ideas, or at least more good ideas than you would on your own.
For those of you who have seen this article at inc.com, you will notice some similarities between this method and methods 8 and 9 in their list. If The Storm and The Bounce don’t seem to work to get any ideas – they really should get you plenty of ideas – then look at the other options in the list they have. You just might find something that helps get your juices flowing, which is really the goal of the first two steps.
This is what I call the first part, and thus because it kind of feels like a storm of information. First, shut off all distractions. Close your computer, put your phone on silent and then put it away. Close the door.
Whatever you need to get away from everything for between 5 and 30 minutes – the longer you storm the more ideas you will have for later, though probably 15 minutes is ideal to put a time crunch on this and keep you from wandering mentally. Now take a piece of paper and a writing stick, try to stay away from digital notes because they offer distractions in and of themselves.
Start your timer, and write. Write anything that comes to your mind – ideas only, don’t worry about other stuff. Make a list, hopefully a rather big list. If you can’t think of anything, look around. Look at objects nearby. Think about what you ate for breakfast. Stare at your shoes. Think about how many cans of paint it would take to paint the room you are in.
Once you have some ideas flowing, it is easier to find ideas that might be more relevant. Just keep writing for your entire time. If you have anyone else doing this with you, they have their own paper, you are not sharing any information or talking at all during this part.
Now that your timer has gone off, it is time to bounce your ideas off each other. Go through each of your lists. What other ideas come to people as these ideas are read out loud? Write them down too. Everybody gets a chance to share.
Don’t hold any of your ideas back. The point of the storm and the bounce is to generate ideas, not critique them or toss them away, that will come next. Once you have generated a list of all of your separate ideas as well as bounce ideas – and you can take some time to explain each idea as you go – it is time to start cutting some of the ideas down to size.
Ok, now you can let your inner monster out. Don’t hold back, though you should still try to avoid angering your team with your critiques. Vote on which ideas to consider further – if the group can’t decide, keep it around a little longer.
There will undoubtedly be terrible ideas on the list. Get rid of them first. Some people may have objections to getting rid of certain ideas – have a debate. Let them give their case for keeping it, you give your case why it should go. Then vote, you may persuade or be persuaded.
Don’t worry about getting to a single idea yet – for starters there may be multiple great ideas on your list – you need to take some time to flesh out the ideas that aren’t terrible first.
Now it is time to put some thought into how these remaining ideas might look. Similar to the bounce, you need to get everyone adding to the mix here.
Start with the first idea, and flesh it out – just a little. Things like target users, feasibility, usability, ability to accomplish the idea, will it be too much for people?
An example of the last could be inferred from My Food Storage. I had conflicting requirements, and one requirement – the time to add new items – was more important than the other – having lots of information available for each item – because the app would take too long to use, and people would delete it. Would you actually want this if it became a reality? Will anyone?
Answer these questions, and any others you can think of, and you will have a good idea of which of these ideas will actually work and be worth spending more time on.
The Critique: Part … again
Now you critique again. Now you need to trim your list down to a couple of really solid candidates. There should be more than one, hopefully, that sounds like it might be a good idea. It will have a target audience, it will be reasonable to accomplish, you will be able to get it in front of your target, it will solve a problem – and not just a problem you have decided they have but a real problem that real people really have.
Side Note: Apple is the only company I’ve seen that can convince people they have a problem that they don’t currently have. While you might be able to do this, it is extremely unlikely – you should read this as impossible – and will cost tons of money and probably fail. Stick to what works, which is solving a problem that people know they have. At least untill you have billions of dollars to spend on a product launch.
Make It Happen
From this point on, once you have a really small list of great ideas, just pick one to continue with. You can come back to the others after you finish the first one. But now is the time to get down into the nitty gritty of actually making the thing happen.
It might turn out during your process that you realize the idea won’t work like you thought originally. If that happens, scrap it and come back and pick a different one. You can’t be afraid of failure if you want to succeed. While failure is not a requirement of success, the ability to learn from failure, and not giving up, will ensure eventual success.
For more information on what to do from here, for those who want to create apps at least, see this post here for what to do next.
Did I miss something you think is super important about Brainstorming? Have a question about this? Leave a comment below, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say!
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