How to Brainstorm

How to Brainstorm
Photo by: shes_so_high

Brainstorming is an important part of the decision-making process. Individuals may brainstorm to make personal decisions as well as group decisions. Brainstorming in the workplace, in the classroom, at home or alone will help foster creativity and will give you many options to consider. Great brainstorming sessions help people focus on the true task at hand and it triggers ideas towards finding proactive solutions. So how do you do it? Funny you should ask…

Follow the 7 tips below to conduct an awesome brainstorming session:

1. Write down a clear purpose for the brainstorming session. What is it that you need to accomplish? Do you need to find a great idea for a group fundraising activity? Do you need to find a great topic to speak on for your next business meeting? Or, how about figuring out what you’re going to be doing for your next vacation? If it’s just you, then write the purpose at the top of a piece of paper. If it’s a group brainstorm, then write it in large letters on a board or on a large poster-sized paper. When all involved can see the purpose of the brainstorm, it will help to keep focus when ideas flow.

2. List ALL ideas that come to you and to your group: Write it all down clearly and succinctly so everyone can see. The one big rule in this is: So long as the idea is not attacking or offensive, NO ONE CAN MAKE A NEGATIVE OR A CRITICAL REMARK ABOUT ANY IDEA…no matter how absurd it sounds. Put downs of ideas will stop the flow of thoughts that come out. Many people feel inhibited or afraid to speak up if they know that there’s a chance for their ideas to be put down. The main idea of this is to let all ideas flow freely from your mind to the board or to the paper. After one idea comes around, then say, “What else?” As you continue to expect more ideas, the likelihood of more ideas coming forward is greater.

3. Make sure that EVERYONE contributes: In usual group dynamics, some people are verbal and some just aren’t. After all the verbal people contribute their ideas, take the time to specifically ask those who didn’t contribute for their ideas. You may find buried treasure unearthed from the minds of the quiet ones. Be sure to reassure everyone that all their ideas are valued possibilities.

4. Repeat the purpose for the brainstorming session once again and ask one more time, “Does anyone have anything else to say?”: Some of the greatest ideas come after this question is posed. Sometimes it takes our minds a bit of time to really formulate the best thoughts. Be sure you don’t skip this step.

5. Process of elimination: When all ideas are completely out and you are sure that there is nothing more lurking in the back of anyone’s mind, go through the list and cross out any ideas that are absolutely, positively impossible. Reasons for crossing out certain ideas could be geographical (like a trip to Mars for a family vacation,) financial (you’ll know what that entails,) or time-wise (you can’t go on a year-long expedition with just a one week vacation.) Then have everyone focus on what is left.

6. Discuss pros and cons of remaining ideas: Be sure that cons are factual, tactful and they avoid degrading connotations. For instance, someone saying, “Going to New York for our vacation would be nice, but it would cost a whole lot more than going to a nearby state,” is tactful and factual. This statement acknowledges that a trip to New York is a good idea while respectfully pointing out that it would cost more than other options.

On the other hand, a comment like, “Going to New York is such a dumb idea. Everyone knows it would be better to travel to a nearby state,” is a derogatory statement without fact-filled reasons for not going there.

In addition, be sure that the discussion of each idea is kept brief and on track. The last thing you want is a tired group on your hands.

7. Vote: At the end of the discussion, a vote is needed. (*If you are the only one involved in the decision making process, see note below.) If there are a lot of choices, you may want to go through several rounds. You may also want members of the group to have two votes each. After the first vote, cross out all the lower-numbered ideas. Then give everyone a chance to vote again. When you are completely satisfied with the number of narrowed choices, pull your results from there. If there is a tie between several remaining items, have another vote until you come out with just one idea. Keep the second and the third ideas as alternatives in case the first chosen one does not work out over time.

(*NOTE: If you are the only one in the brainstorming session, you may work through your choices by arranging every idea according to your preference and choosing from the top three.)

As you can see, a quality brainstorming session may enhance the quality of decisions made. Brainstorming may be used for personal decisions as well as with groups. Utilize the steps above to enhance the quality of decisions in your life.

Have a happy day!


The Happy Balance Girl

Copyright 2012 by Stacey Shimabukuro-Lui. All rights reserved.

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