Unleash the Full Power of Freeform Brainstorming
Brainstorming is an immensely powerful creativity tool that is under-used by many people. When it’s done well, freeform brainstorming can let your creativity explode. One idea leads to another, and another until your problem’s solution appears from a totally unexpected direction. When you brainstorm on your own, you are opening up the many unused channels in your brain, so you come up with better and more creative solutions to your problems.
When you brainstorm with others, ideas bounce between you like pool balls on a trampoline. The ideas take strange trajectories and come back at you from unexpected directions.
Solitary brainstorming is useful, but group brainstorming can be awe-inspiring in what it can achieve.
Sometimes you just have to do it on your own. Solitary brainstorming is better than no brainstorming at all.
The most important factors for success are having enough sleep and the right mindset.
Choose your best time of day and remove all distractions. Everyone has a two or three hour part of the day where their brain works best; that is when you should organize your brainstorming activity. If you can remove distractions such as your Internet connection, desktop clutter, and noise, it will lead to a more useful brainstorming session. Many people like to use pencil and paper, or a large whiteboard.
Try background music, too: Non-vocal jazz, instrumental and orchestral music work well for many people.
There are various software tools that can make brainstorming on your own easier. You should experiment and find what works for you, because we are all different.
Many brainstorming tools have a free tier or a trial period. New tools are constantly being released, so a complete list is not feasible. Paid tools are worth it to most users, though monthly subscriptions can add up very quickly.
Bubbl.us is a mind-mapping tool that is equally useful for brainstorming. Notes are linkable and can be changed from the contextual menu that appears when you hover over any note. The free tier only allows three mind-maps, but the first paid tier is very reasonably priced and allows you an unlimited number of mind-maps/brainstorms.
Stormboard has a simple interface, yet is a very powerful tool. The screenshot above is a Quick-Help screen, taken while logged in and lets you see how intuitive the software is to use. Stormboard is excellent for collaborative brainstorms and even includes a chat facility.
Scapple is a program that you buy (a once-off payment of about $15) and download to use locally, rather than online. It gives you an unlimited number of whiteboards on your Apple or PC. Scapple lets you import links and images as well as typing notes. You can change anything in your freeform diagrams, including the background color, the font used and links between items.
Freeform Group Brainstorming
If you have had negative experiences of group brainstorming up to now, then that was down to the poor leadership of the group. A poor leader will often go into a brainstorming session with the objective of getting the group to endorse a plan that has been previously drawn up. Freeform group brainstorming is a challenge to many managers and only a fearless, and confident leader will allow the session to go where it will.
Those companies that have a culture of brainstorming come up with great, and innovative products. Google has a set brainstorm procedure and uses employee input to generate totally new services like Project Loon that will solve users’ problems in novel ways.
This Creative Overflow post has some great tips on making freeform brainstorming more effective.
You can compare good brainstorming to adding extra RAM into a computer, or running four CPUs in parallel. You get a lot of extra processing power. One person’s idea sparks off the next, and you get a positive feedback loop that takes you much further with your idea than you could get on your own.
Brainstorming with a Narrow Purpose
Sometimes you will just be short of ideas to move forward. You might ask contacts for their thoughts. One website that can help is MyBlogU.com. Membership is free and allows you to post “brainstorm requests” to the community. Members’ responses give you alternative perspectives on your problem and can help you to move forward when you hit a brick wall on your own. Members cannot see other responses, so there is no creativity feedback loop, but if you just need ideas to help you over a problem, it works well.
If you work alone, then an independent or contrary point of view could save your business.
Experts agree that brainstorming is essential to developing a healthy business. Brainstorming can be useful in developing your customer persona, which is also an important factor you must determine when setting up your blog to begin with.
You could use brainstorming sessions to help develop new services to solve customers’ needs, to come up with a new logo, or even to think up blog post subjects.
The point is to tap into all the resources you have, and that includes your employees’ imaginations, contacts’ brains, and friends’ inspiration.
How do you use brainstorming? How do you encourage everyone to contribute? Please share your ideas in the comments below.