Guest Author - Deborah Crawford
Brainstorming is a great problem-solving tool and it can be very helpful in your business. It has been around for decades, but is so easy that anyone can learn to do it and benefit from it in a matter of minutes.
You can brainstorm by yourself and come up with some great ideas, and if you have a trusted group of advisors, you can sometimes get phenomenal ideas. Two heads (or six or nine) are often better than one, especially when brainstorming.
Brainstorming is just a technique for generating a bunch of ideas. It can be used for many business purposes, from naming your company to planning a new ad campaign to identifying how to solve customer complaints.
Here are some guidelines for brainstorming:
1) Define the problem or situation clearly so that everyone knows what you are trying to accomplish. It sometimes helps to write it on a flipchart or whiteboard or on individual note cards so that everyone can refer back to it. For example: “How can we decrease customer complaints?”
2) Write down all ideas offered, and make sure everyone agrees that no criticism is allowed during the session. (The group can evaluate ideas afterward.) Accept any and everything, even if it seems silly or trite or useless. Encourage everyone to blurt out ideas without thinking about or censoring them. The goal is to generate many ideas. Here’s a partial “possible” list of ideas:
--Do a better job
--Get better products
--Throw away the comment cards
--Ask some customers to help us
--Give away popcorn
--Hire more help
3) Encourage crazy ideas, and “opposite” thinking. Often we get stuck because we are too focused on getting the answer right. If you or your group gets stuck, ask silly questions and propose bizarre scenarios. For example, “How can we increase customer complaints?” can offer some interesting insights. As can, “How about if we make every customer tell us a joke to get in the store?” Sometimes the “weirdest” ideas lead to the best solutions.
4) After you have generated many ideas or reached your goal of say 25 ideas, then take a break. Put your ideas away for several hours or even overnight. After your break, start to evaluate and discuss the ideas. This is the most beneficial part of a brainstorming session because now you can bring a critical eye to the ideas and narrow your list down to a few “do-able” ideas. The group can explain some of their thinking, too. If it’s a group that is competitive, have them defend each other’s ideas instead of their own.
5) Once you choose the best idea or even several fantastic ideas, create an Action Plan to help you implement the ideas.
Whether you are a start-up or a long-term biz owner, a successful billionaire, or a work-from home mom balancing kids and career, creative thinking and new ideas can help you reach your goals and objectives in new and exciting ways. Try brainstorming for solutions to the problem most often on your mind these days and see what you marvelous ideas you uncover.
If you need a little more help in generating even more creative ideas, (and sometimes, we all do), Thinkpak comes highly recommended as an easy-to-use and effective tool. It is a deck of cards that lead you through what is essentially guided brainstorming.
Another fun and creative tool for brainstorming is the ubiquitous Post-It Note! Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes uses these modern must-haves to help you find solutions quicker, faster.