How to brainstorm better
As creatives, it’s safe to say that most of our time isn’t actually spent creating. At least, not in the sense of putting pen to paper or dragging a mouse around a screen. Instead, a lot of our efforts are spent preparing to create: thinking, rethinking, daydreaming, doodling, and otherwise inventing and polishing ideas (with a lot of casualties left on the cutting room floor). While creative ideation can take many forms, brainstorming is useful because it allows multiple people to collaborate on ideas for just about anything.
To help improve your brainstorming sessions, we brainstormed about brainstorming (very meta). Here are our suggestions:
Make your objective clear. Before you dive in, review every piece of information relevant to your project. What are your goals? Who’s your audience and what do they care about? What are you hoping to walk away with from your brainstorm — two fully fleshed-out concepts, or dozens of thought-starters? Set yourself up for success by putting these details on a whiteboard or a handout. This isn’t about controlling your ideas but rather narrowing your focus so your efforts are informed and effective
Keep it fun and physical. Environment shapes behaviour. Good ideas often find us in the shower because our minds are roaming free. While a group shower probably isn’t recommended for your brainstorming session, you can replicate this feeling of openness by leaving your desk and going somewhere that’ll energize your team, like a busy cafe or a park on a sunny day. Once you get there, try different ideation techniques. Move around, write on Post-Its, flirt with ideas that don’t make sense, and generally get out of your normal headspace.
Silence is okay. There’s nearly always a lull in a brainstorming session, when the energy dies and your thoughts turn inward. There’s nothing wrong with this; sometimes we need time to think on our own and digest. Don’t be discouraged. The best ideas can come from these moments of reflection.
Build onto ideas. At this stage, ideas don’t have owners. Rather, every idea is a building block that can act as a foundation for an even better idea. Don’t be too attached or precious with your thoughts. Sometimes the smallest, most random thought (nearly always starting with “What if…?”) can be blown up into something incredible if you take it far enough.