Brainstorming is a useful way of generating creative solutions to problems. During the brainstorming process, there is no criticism of ideas, since criticism cramps creativity. Ideas should only be evaluated at the end of the brainstorming session. Individual brainstorming is good for generating ideas. If it is group brainstorming, there needs formal rules for it to work smoothly.
Group brainstorming is good for processing and developing ideas, and good for bringing team members together. Using brainstorming also helps people commit to solutions because they have participated in the development of these solutions. The best approach to brainstorming is to combine individual and group brainstorming.
Individual brainstorming: when brainstorming on your own, you should consider using Mind Maps to arrange and develop ideas.
Group Brainstorming: can develop ideas in more depth than individual brainstorming. it helps everyone involved to feel that they’ve contributed to the end solution. So it is great for team-building!
To run a group brainstorming session effectively, do the following:
- Find a comfortable meeting environment, and set it up ready for the session.
- Appoint one person to record the ideas that come from the session. These should be noted in a format than everyone can see and refer to. Depending on the approach you want to use, you may want to record ideas on flip charts, whiteboards, or computers with data projectors.
- If people aren’t already used to working together, consider using an appropriate warm-up exercise or ice-breaker.
- Define the problem you want solved clearly, and lay out any criteria to be met. Make it clear that that the objective of the meeting is to generate as many ideas as possible.
- Give people plenty of time on their own at the start of the session to generate as many ideas as possible.
- Ask people to give their ideas, making sure that you give everyone a fair opportunity to contribute.
- Encourage people to develop other people’s ideas, or to use other ideas to create new ones.
- Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among members of the group. Try to get everyone to contribute and develop ideas, including the quietest members of the group.
- Ensure that no one criticizes or evaluates ideas during the session. Criticism introduces an element of risk for group members when putting forward an idea. This stifles creativity and cripples the free running nature of a good brainstorming session.
- Let people have fun brainstorming. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as possible, from solidly practical ones to wildly impractical ones. Welcome creativity!
- Ensure that no train of thought is followed for too long. Make sure that you generate a sufficient number of different ideas, as well as exploring individual ideas in detail.
- In a long session, take many breaks so that people can concentrate well.
Participants in group brainstorming should be 5 to 7 people to be best.
- Time Travel. How would you deal with this if you were in a different time period? 10 years ago? 100 years ago? 1,000 years ago? How about in the future? 10 years later? 100 years later? 1,000 years later?
- Teleportation: What if you were facing this problem in a different place? Different country? Different geographic region? Different universe? Different plane of existence? How would you handle it?
- Attribute change. How would you think about this if you were a different gender? Age? Race? Intellect? Height? Weight? Nationality? Your Sanity? With each attribute change, you become exposed to a new spectrum of thinking you were subconsciously closed off from.
- Rolestorming. What would you do if you were someone else? Your parent? Your teacher? Your manager? Your partner? Your enemy?…
- Iconic Figures. This is a spinoff of rolestorming. What if you were an iconic figure of the past? Buddha? Jesus? Krishna? Albert Einstein? Thomas Edison? Mother Theresa? Princess Diana? Winston Churchill? Adolf Hitler? How about the present? Barack Obama? Bill Gates? Steven Spielberg? Etc? How would you think about your situation?
- Superpowers: What would you do if you suddenly had superpowers? Superman? Spiderman? Wonderwoman? X-Men? What would you do?
- Gap Filling. Identify your current spot – Point A – and your end goal – Point B. What is the gap that exists between A and B? What are needed to fill up this gap? List them down and find out what it takes to get them.
- Group Ideation. Have a group brainstorming session! Get a group of people and start ideating together. More brains are better than one! Let the creative juices flow together!
- Mind Map. Great tool to work out as many ideas as you can in hierarchical tree and cluster format. Start off with your goal in the center, branch out into the major sub-topics, continue to branch out into as many sub-sub-topics as needed
- Medici Effect. Medici Effect refers to how ideas in seemingly unrelated topics/fields intersect. Put your goal alongside similar goals in different areas/contexts and identify parallel themes/solutions. EX: if your goal is to be an award winning artist, look at award winning musicians, educators, game developers, computer makers, businessmen, etc. Are there any commonalities that lie among all of them that you can apply to your situation? What worked for each of them that you can adopt?
- SWOT Analysis. Do a SWOT of your situation – What are the Strengths? Weaknesses? Opportunities? Threats? The analysis will open you up to ideas you may not be aware before.
- Brain Writing. Get a group of people and have them write their ideas on their own sheet of paper. After 10 minutes, rotate the sheets to different people and build off what the others wrote on their paper. Continue until everyone has written on everyone else’s sheet.
- Trigger Method. Brainstorm on as many ideas as possible. Then select the best ones and brainstorm on those ideas as ‘triggers’ for more ideas. Repeat until you find the best solution.
- Variable Brainstorming. First, identify the variable in the end outcome you look to achieve. For example, if your goal is to achieve X visitors to your website, the variable is of visitors. Second, list down all the possibilities for that variable. Different variations of visitors are gender/age/race/nationality/occupation/interests/etc. Think about the question with each different variable. For example, for Genre: How can you get more females to your website? How can you get more males to your website? For age: How can you get more teenagers to your website? How can you get more adults to your website? And so on.
- Niche. This is the next level of variable brainstorming method. From the variations of the variable you have listed, mix and match them in different ways and brainstorm against those niches. For example, using the example in 14, how can you get more male teenagers to your website? (Gender & Age) How can you get more American female adults to your website? (Nationality, Gender & Age)
- Challenger. List down assumptions in your situation and challenge them. For example, your goal is to brainstorm on a list of ideas for your romance novel which you want to get published. There are several assumptions you are operating in here. #1: Genre to write: Romance. Why must it be that romance? Can it be a different genre? Another assumption is for a novel. #2: Length of the story: Novel. Why must it be a novel? Can it be a short story? A series of books? #3: Medium: Book. Why must be it a book? Can it be an ebook? Mp3? Video?…
- Escape Thinking. This is a variation of Challenger method. Look at the assumptions behind the goal you are trying to achieve, then flip that assumption around and look at your goal from that new angle. For example, you want to earn more income from selling books. Your assumption may be ‘People buy books for themselves’. Flip the assumption around such that ‘People do NOT buy books for reading’. What will this lead to? You may end up with people buy books as gifts, for collection purposes, etc. Another assumption may be ‘People read books’. The flip side of this assumption may be people look at books (drawings). Escaping from these assumptions will bring you to a different realm of thought on how to achieve your goal.
- Reverse Thinking. Think about what everyone will typically do in your situation. Then do the opposite.
- Counteraction Busting. What counteracting forces are you facing in your scenario? For example, if you want to increase traffic to your website, two counteracting forces may be the number of ads you put and the page views of your site. The more ads you put, the more users will likely be annoyed and surf away. What can you do such that the counteraction no longer exists or the counteraction is no longer an issue? Some solutions may be 1) Get ads that are closely related to the theme of your site, 2) Get contextual ads that are part of your content rather than separate….
- Resource Availability. What if money, time, people, supplies are not issues at all? What if you can ask for whatever you want and have it happen? What will you do?
- Driver Analysis. What are the forces that help drive you forward in your situation? What are the forces that are acting against you? Think about how you can magnify the former and reduce/eliminate the latter.
- Exaggeration. Exaggerate your goal and see how you will deal with it now. Enlarge it: What if it is 10 times its current size? 100 times? 1000 times? Shrink it: What if it is 1/10 its current size? 1/100? 1/1000? Multiply it: What if you have 10 of these goals now? 100? 1000?
- Get Random Input. Get a random stimuli and try to see how you can fit it into your situation. Get a random word/image from a dictionary/webpage/book/magazine/newspaper/TV/etc, a random object from your room/house/workplace/neighborhood/etc and so on.
- Meditation. Focus on your key question such as ‘How can I solve XX problem?’ or ‘How can I achieve XX goal?’ and meditate on it in a quiet place. Have a pen and paper in front of you so you can write immediately whatever comes to mind. Do this for 30 minutes or longer.
- Write a list of 101 ideas to deal with your situation. Go wild and write whatever you can think of without restricting yourself. Do not stop until you have at least 101.
Suggestions when brainstorming:
- Relax. Play some creative music.
- Spelling or style doesn’t count.
- Don’t worry about organization.
- Think quantity.
- Be positive, don’t criticise.
- Free-associate ideas. Keep them simple.
- Write or sketch as quickly as you can.
- Write or sketch in any order.
- Develop all ideas.
- Keep working.
- Combine to improve each other’s ideas
SCAMPER (For generating new products and services)
SCAMPER is a checklist that helps you to think of changes you can make to an existing product to create a new one. You can use these changes either as direct suggestions or as starting points for lateral thinking. Developed by Bob Eberle, the changes SCAMPER stands for are:
- S – Substitute – components, materials, people
- C – Combine – mix, combine with other assemblies or services, integrate
- A – Adapt – alter, change function, use part of another element
- M – Modify – increase/ reduce in scale, change shape, modify attributes (e.g. colour)
- P – Put to another use
- E – Eliminate – remove elements, simplify, reduce to core functionality
- R – Reverse – turn inside out or upside down, also use of
Using SCAMPER helps you define new products. Many ideas may be impractical or unsuit the equipment used by the manufacturer. However some of these ideas could be good starting points for new products.
Reversal (Improving Products and Services)
Reversal is a good tool for improving a product or a service. To use it, ask the opposite of the question you want to ask, and apply the results. Example: Imagine that you want to improve the response of a service center. Using Reversal you would ask ‘How would I reduce customer satisfaction?’. After considering this question you might give the following answers:
- Not answering the phone when customers call
- Not returning phone calls
- Have people with no product knowledge answering the phone
- Use rude staff
- Give the wrong advice
After using Reversal, you would ensure that appropriate staff members were handling incoming phone calls efficiently and pleasantly. You would set up training programs to ensure that they were giving accurate and effective advice.