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How do we put heads together to untap innovative ideas?
At its most basic level, brainstorming gets us thinking. It involves creative play, throwing ideas around, digression, exploration, building relationships, experimentation and failed attempts. It might not always seem like you are being productive, but ideas come unexpectedly and in all shapes and sizes. Over time, you'll be amazed at the goldmine of ideas at your exposure, which you can refine and develop into valuable, tangible solutions! The results will be very profitable and rewarding in all areas of your life. Obstacles and insurmountable barriers can now be seen in a new light. They are so much smaller than they appeared to be or might even evaporate during this rigorous method for scrutiny! Brainstorming is a mission-critical business skill for coping in a world of change. Devote several hours of uninterrupted brainstorming every week to reaching your objectives!
Oops, do you lack a brainstorm culture?
Assumptions: Overworked and stressed-out staff often devote too little time to creative thinking and may rely heavily on assumptions, which is a roadblock to innovation and dealing effectively with challenges, opportunities and change. Less than our best: We can't do our best work while merely careening from one jampacked day to the next! Going no-where: People often try to reason logically through a complex situation for several frustrating hours without making any progress. Stress and worry: Where there's a lack of creative thinking, people tend to waste a lot of time merely worrying about problems, rather than doing something creative about them. Interpretation: Verbal communication is open to misinterpretation, because words are often imprecise, clouding the problem-solving process. Poor structures: Poor business structures can cause many innovative ideas to disintegrate. Too complex: As a challenge become more multi-faceted, it becomes harder to clearly visualise all the facets and influences. Stiff competition: Most innovation today is a matter of improving on existing technologies, products and services and often solutions become obsolete. When innovation is neglected we could easily get left behind by the competition. Innovate or disintegrate. Vague ideas: By just keeping all information in one's mind, one isn't able to notice subtler connections, interrelationships and implications. Just waiting: The danger in waiting for a brilliant big novel idea is that one can easily stop noticing other valuable solutions.
Pressure: Pressure to be efficient and productive negatively influence one's creativity. Unpredictable: We may want to engage only in activities which pay off in a predictable way.
Benefits of brainstorming
Brainstorming offers numerous benefits: It's fun!: It is satisfying and exciting to take on a challenge and then discover the a-ha! solution hidden within it. Balance: It balances the important aspects of reflection with the busyness of our everyday lives. Actualise: Putting your ideas on paper is the first step of taking action. Identify: It helps us to identify solutions, opportunities, goals and ideals. Reassurance: By focussing on constructive, creative and exciting pursuits, brainstorming frees us from needless worry. Innovation: It develops a steady stream of new ideas and innovations flowing from your mind. Clarity: Symbolising information using a flow chart helps to make a workable solution very clear to a others and shows the bigger picture. Success: Successful people have the same challenges as anyone else, but they gain tremendous leverage over their results through a simple, systematic method for analysing and finding solutions for their challenges. Inspiration: By reading biographies of the world's greatest artists, philosophers and business leaders throughout history, one can't help but notice the role which creative thinking and planning has played in their lives. Thinking process: Brainstorming trains us to think faster, clearer, and more creatively - beyond our usual paradigms. It involves exercising both the visual and logical capabilities of the brain. Persuasion: Our communication achieve better results and our communication-tools become more universal and symbolic and have a more powerful impact. We learn how to present our ideas more persuasively. Solutions guaranteed: When challenges are clearly defined by using simple, focused brainstorming, they are already halfway solved! Innovation: Brainstorming stimulates the mind to notice new connections, flow, relationships, context, and possibilities between seemingly unrelated ideas and processes. Complex ideas: Brainstorming helps you to capture complex ideas quickly and easily.
How to brainstorm
Schedule time: Schedule two to three one-hour time slots on a weekly basis for brainstorming. Make these appointments a fixed habit and take them as seriously as you would any meeting with a key client. See a challenge: Invest time and energy in welcoming problems as challenges, and as a normal part of life to be dealt with.
Optimistic attitude: Decide firmly that a solution for your challenge exists and that you feel a light-hearted excitement about finding it. Participants: When you create a group to generate ideas for a challenge, get the people who are goal orientated to participate and begin by creating a team relationship. Homework: Give everyone a rough idea about the challenge beforehand and let them know how they can best prepare themselves for the brainstorming session. Challenge statement: Decide what the challenge is and write it down in the middle of a white board or a large sheet of paper. Define: Define, as completely as possible, everything that you know about each aspect of your challenge. Then write down everything you know about your current problem or challenge. Try to isolate and write down specific factors or trends that have contributed to it. o Breakdown: Break the challenge down into segments and write it down on a large sheet of paper or on separate piece of paper for each of your challenges. o Generate lists: List everything about the challenge, which is taken for granted and all ideas that come up. o Perspectives: View your challenge from all possible different perspectives by asking yourself open-ended, thought-provoking questions. o Cause and effect: Using cause-and-effect analysis to find the source of the challenge, not just the symptoms. o Help: What could help me solve this challenge? o Information: What are the best sources of information or expertise related to this challenge? o Similar challenges: What strategies or solutions someone else use to solve a similar challenge? How is this situation similar to others I've faced before? Can those solutions be adapted for your current challenge? o Others involved: If this challenge involves others, how do they view the situation and how would they solve it? o Imagination: How would an expert like Albert Einstein solve this challenge? o Visualise: Visualisation helps you to mentally look at your challenge from all angles. o Patterns: As you record your thoughts and insights, recognise the patterns that will begin to emerge. o Back to front: Start from an ideal outcome and work your way back to the current moment, writing down the steps you would have taken to achieve the objectives. o Creative questions: Questions stimulate our creative intelligence by helping us to apply our imaginations. Idea-mapping: Branch the challenge statement outward into short phrases, key words and symbols to outline ideas, and show relationships between elements using brightly coloured pens to make the ideas vivid. Begin with broad ideas as the initial outlines and then add the details. Capture ALL ideas: To come up with one great BIG idea, the goal is to generate many, many fresh ideas and insights! Record the essence of all these ideas - no matter how
big, small, far-fetched, wild or ridiculous they may seem. These 'silly' ideas could often be used as stepping stones to other very workable great ideas. Notes notes notes: Jot down additional notes on everything that comes up during, before and after brainstorming discussions. Provocate: Its time to make good use of 'bad' ideas! Reverse the statements, turn them into the negative and then turn them into a wish... list all of these wishes. Discussions: Review the information you've gathered. Review notes, issues, potential challenges, possible solutions, considering which are the best ones. Create a condensed list of possible solutions. Harvest: When harvesting solutions from the information we generated, we gain new perspectives and solutions that may have been hidden from us and which are now suddenly obviously viable solutions. How to: Decide how to put the solutions into practice.
Develop brainstorming habits
Develop the habit of filling your mind with the raw materials needed for the creative thinking process: Individual: Because each person's creativity functions in its own special way, it's a journey of discovery to find out which methods fit your personal creative style best. Record ideas: Record your ideas when they strike! Capture all your a-ha! illuminations. This is the most important tip! Record it, before it slips back into the murky depths of your mind. Over a period of time, this will become a highly satisfying activity. Here are some record keeping tools: o Dictaphone: When a tidal wave of ideas comes pouring from your mind, the fastest way to capture it is by dictating your ideas onto a dictaphone. o Scrap-books: Collect materials that inspire you like newspaper clippings, photos, etc. and paste them into large books. o PDA: Several PDA products are very easy to use and very effective for jotting down ideas and even have search options. o Notebook: When you get an idea, simply write down the essence of your budding idea. o Capture onto PC: Once a week, create a permanent record of your ideas by documenting them from notes, dictaphone, etc. onto computer. o Daily activity: We have to condition our minds, by challenging it with a daily regimen of creative thinking. Pit stops: To prevent that slightly sickly anxious feeling when we take the risk of failing, start to view failure as a pit stop on the road to success. Creativity mind-map: Create a mind map and experiment with right-brain oriented tools to map out your assumptions, questions and potential sources of information. Absorb: Become a sponge for information on your challenges, profession, business, social life and all other areas. Creative library: As you go about your daily activities, write down bits of information that catch your interest, even one's that don't relate to any of your current challenges.
Wander after your interests: Allow yourself to wander after the things you just crave for, for no reason. You may buy an odd book, poke around the internet, or explore an unusual place... Random: Fall in love with the possibilities of doing something out of the ordinary... it's often leads to something surprisingly interesting and useful. Start by reading a magazine that you would never ordinarily read. Read: Read websites, books and magazine articles on the topic of your project or challenge. Research: Use search engines to conduct thorough on-line research. Ask the experts: Conversations with experts can provide you with amazing insights into your challenges or opportunities. Develop the ability to ask incisive, open-ended questions, that will elicit the most valuable information and insights. Creativity tools: Buy creativity-supporting items, such as coloured pens, drawing pads etc. The subconscious: Your subconscious mind possesses vast resources to solve unsolved challenges by inferring the missing information - even while you sleep. Think about a challenge for about 30 minutes before bedtime to activate your subconsious to churn out a breakthrough solution while you sleep. Early mornings: In the early morning hours our minds aren't cluttered, and we are especially receptive for ideas, hunches and insights. Remember to capture them! Insight outlook: Cultivate an outlook of gaining deeper insight from multiple perspectives into information, trends and other data, always trying to notice any connections they may contain. Don't give up: To get to the best may require prolonged brainstorming - just keep on doing it until it emerge.
Profile of a creative person
Distinguishing factors: What sets the truly creative person apart is a matter of mindset, attitude and habit. With the proper discipline, these qualities can be developed by virtually anyone. New material needed: The creative person constantly feeds the inexhaustible mind with new thoughts to create new ideas and connections. Goal oriented: Define a clear set of goals. Creative thinking: Think imaginatively about yourself, your worth and others to exercise the brain on a daily basis. Fellow humans: Enjoy a passion for sharing ideas freely - it is very important for creativity to flow freely - the hand that gives, always gathers. Capturing ideas: Captures ideas immediately and you'll be surprise how soon you have enough information for a truly great venture. Attention to detail: The creative person pays attention to detail and is intensely observes everything he thinks and hears. Self-improvement: Always look for better ways to do things. Optimistic: Anticipates success, expects to win and this attitude affects those around him in a positive way. Organised action: Take creative action before running into problems, and take an organised approach to problem solving.
Idea generator: Put your new idea through its paces and constantly build on it extend it with other small, old and new ideas, turning it into a BIG idea! Time management: Use spare time wisely and realise that the world's greatest ideas were conceived in the creator's spare time.
Use brainstorming for the following challenges:
Art Restructuring Career development Cause and effect analysis Contacts network Core ideology Cost savings Customer needs Decision making Defining goals Event planning Knowledge mapping Presentations Problem solving Project admin Project planning Risk response planning Scope definition Sport Meeting management Marketing Market niches Note taking Personal development Positioning of offerings Process and procedures Process optimisation Sales Strategic planning New offerings To-do lists Training Writing
Use Both Sides of Your Brain by Tony Buzan Mindmapping by Joyce Wycoff Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko The Marketer's Visual Toolkit by Terry Richey
Quotes on brainstorming
Ceasing to think creatively is but little different than ceasing to live. - Ben Franklin The imaginations of most of us are like the wings of an ostrich. They enable us to run, though not to soar. But many of us don't even walk. - Lord MacCauley Talent is our affair. We can shrivel it through disuse or build it up by practicing creativity, by solving problems, by using our leisure in ways that will exercise our imagination until we become happy, vital, intelligent people. - Gustav Flaubert 'Our only factory asset is our imagination'. Creativity and innovation can be measured and 'what gets measured gets done'. - Bill Gates You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present - Jan Glidewell Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness. - James Thurber
Benjine Gerber, Author, Systems developer email@example.com www.self-educate.com