3 Steps to an Inspired Brainstorm

Whether you need to remove a roadblock or swoop in on opportunity, convening a brainstorm is a great way to tap into others. But a surprise gathering with a quick debrief may not return the best results.  When you gather people to think and they are more informed and more primed for creativity, the ideas generated are more relevant.  This applies whether your goal is blitz idea generation or a solution to a more chronic problem.

There are some steps you can take to create an inspired environment, where you get the best out of your brainstormers:

  1. Feed the Animals
    Steve Jobs said creativity is just connecting things. Don’t be afraid to use inspiration – from media, news, other industries. Even if it feels like copycatting at first, it’s a spark that can evolve into something bigger. The more sources of inspiration you have, the more connections you can make.People think differently, and that’s important to take into consideration. Some people need a thesaurus on hand for word association; others need data or research to feed the right brain before bridging to the creative side.
  2. Warm-Up and Disinvite Technology
    Ask everyone to bring something to the table in order to build your base of inspiration. This foundation increases your focus time, and people are more likely to come into the brainstorm with some initial thoughts and questions in mind (and skin in the game).Go in with the right information, and don’t allow screens to join the brainstorm. Nothing kills a brainstorm faster than a team member receding into their laptop.
  3.  Take the pressure off inventing The Thing That Will Change the World (TTTWCTW)
    Inventing TTTWCTW is a lot of pressure, especially when you have to come up with it before your 3:30 call.  Don’t go on lockdown until you solve a problem. Setting the scope of a brainstorm is fine, but loosen up the flow of ideas when possible. The best ideas are marinated, baked, simmered – the point being that there’s a recipe for great ideas that only turns out right when you give it time.  Sometimes brainstorming together is the prep work for the moment a team member scribbles a note to self in the middle of the night.Letting your brain absorb ideas and then work them out is really just how we work.  LifeHacker reports on the science behind creative thinking and why we all have great ideas in the shower. When we relax, we reflect and make more insightful connections.

    Use brainstorms to plant a seed, and don’t be afraid to part ways without action items or TTTWCTW.

There are steps to a successful brainstorm, but only if a brainstorm is the right mode of thinking for the issue you’re dealing with. For problems that are particularly simple or complex, the Harvard Business review points out that a lone problem-solver makes more progress and opens up new options that a group may stifle. Try charging talented individuals or very small teams with working to create a solution.

Follow these three steps, and you’ll be wondering whether your creativity makes you a mad man or a genius. What else can we do to get the most out of brainstorms?

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