How to Brainstorm Correctly?

In a world where ideas are the most valuable material it is important to stay fresh and unpredictable. Brainstorming is one of the most effective ways to keep yourself conceptually fit and being able to produce new and exciting ideas on a regular basis. But there is a common misconception that brainstorm is throwing things and looking what will stick. While there might be some truth in that statement - it is not exactly like that.

Brainstorming is fairly complex technique of mapping out the goals and the ways to achieve them. And there are actually some rules that make the process far more effective. But if you know the basics - it goes in a smooth and relatively awesome way with a certain flavor of the mystery peppered all around.

Here are several tips you need to follow while brainstorming:

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Define your goals

Before you start being stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun, you need to understand what do you want to do - in other words you need to identify your mission objections.

The simplest way to do it is to make it according to the SMART method, which means the goal must be:

  • Specific;

  • Measurable;

  • Attainable;

  • Relevant;

  • Time Bound;

As you can see - this makes the description of the goal far more simple and gives your clear understanding of what you need to do. And then...

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Describe the ways you can achieve certain goals

If you know what to do - you need to understand how will you do it. The perfect way to get on the right way is by following the principle "Start general - get specific". This breaks down the storming into two phases.

First you need to drop a number of ideas in wide array of themes. It is called "the shotgun blast". Keep mind that those ideas must have little to no connection to each other and has to be seemingly random (but not too much). Similar and repetitive proposals may be recorded but there is little chance they will be used in any manner later. After a while you can switch to the next phase.

Phase two is also known as "the laser beam". In it you narrow the accumulated mass of ideas down. Drop the ones deemed useless and develop those which are worthy. Refine the ideas step by step and then connect them with one another, possibly with the supportive arguments. This will make a tangible net that will mostly likely lead you to a proper solution to your cause.

After you narrowed down the set of ideas you can perform group SWOT analysis. It is the way of dissecting the problem by defining it using four measures - strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. This will show you the way your colleagues see the problems and the way to solve it in a crispier and clearer way.

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Set Deadline

There is no point in endless ramblings as they lead mostly to approximately nothing. Since mostly leading to approximately nothing is courtesy of poetry - there must be some kind of a limit. Time limit is the perfect one because it sets the feeling of urgency in a participant. And with urgency comes daring behavior and that is where the magic starts since the brakes are off and the heat is on. 

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Don't overthink - get it all out

Brainstorm is the thought process that is beyond critical appreciation. That means - you don't need to think about the quality of your storming. You just need to storm your way through the process and get as much as you can. Even if you end up with a bucket of bullshit - the intensity of the thought process will leave an indelible mark on your consciousness, thus the next time will be far more eligible and profound. The mistake most of the brainstormers make is to hold themselves from dropping something obviously stupid. This approach is quite harmful to the brainstorm process itself since it is holding back and keeps things unsaid that could pave the way for something more valuable. No holds barred approach is far more productive and gives you an opportunity to empty your mind board completely.

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Record everything

While there is a temptation to just sit and talk and then go to work - the whole point of brainstorm is to attain a certain mass of ideas that can be used in the working process. That's why every little proposal, stupid joke and funny words must go on record - there is a possibility that some of it will save you a little bit later. In order to keep some sort of a structure to the notes you need break them down into several categories. For example:

  • Practical;
  • Conceptual;
  • Side notes;
  • Nota bene;
  • De future;

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Use various techniques

There a trap in which many of the novice brainstormers fall into after a while - the process of brainstorming becomes the routines, thoughts fall into the pattern and overall quality of the work drops significantly. This means you need to constantly change the way you think and put ideas together.

Here are several techniques that can help you to make an effective fit of brainstorm:

  • Time travel - how would you deal with the problem with the arsenal of 100 years ago or in the future?
  • Change the roles - what would you do if you were somebody else?
  • Filling the gaps - you have a certain set of ideas. Now fills the gap between them, connect the dots;
  • Reverse thinking. You know what you will do in a certain situation. Now think about what you would not do;
  • Resourse analysis. What you can do with a certain amount of workforce? What if there is more or less?

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As you can see - brainstorm is easy if you know how to do it. There are many other methods of brainstorming that are worth mentioning. But these are the essentials - the ones without which the whole process will be clumsy and blindfolded.