15 Ingredients for successful brainstorming

Although brainstorming is omnipresent in businesses environments, the average brainstorm is definitely not the place where you will find many creative ideas. Done in the wrong way brainstorming can even be harmful to your organisation.

A poorly organised or facilitated brainstorm session is a waste of your team’s time and energy. Besides, a negative encounter with brainstorming can do a lot of damage to your teams creativity and motivation. Fortunately there are simple ways to improve creative thinking and to organise a productive brainstorm.

In this article I share 15 ingredients for successful brainstorming.

1. Ask The Right Question
Formulate your challenge plainly. The best way is to define it in a question like “How can we…?” or “In which way can we…?” Make sure your starting question is clear and stimulates imagination.

2. Assemble The Perfect Team
A brainstorm should be held with one or more small groups of 6 to 8 people. Put together a mixed group of people. Young, old, male, female, experienced, inexperienced etc. Diversity inspires.

3. Bring In A Stranger
The American philosopher Daniel Clement Dennett once put it nicely: “What you can imagine depends on what you know.” Besides professionals you need outsiders to bring fresh perspectives.

4. Get A License To Operate
Ideas are worthless, unless executed. Make sure that you have permission and commitment to carry out ideas. Nothing is more frustrating than brilliant novel ideas that are left to die.

5. Start With A Brain Dump
People have ideas already. Although these ideas are often not very original, they are valuable. Make sure all these ideas are captured before you start using creative thinking techniques.

6. Brainstorm In Silence
According to studies, 60-75% of the talking in traditional brainstorms is done by a few people. Prevent this ‘Uneven Communication Effect’. Use brainwriting.

7. Use Thinking Techniques
You don’t want to end up with obvious or boring ideas. To find fresh and novel ideas you have to make use of lateral thinking techniques. It will definitely provide you with some ingenious ideas.

8. Delay Your Judgement
NEVER judge during the creative phase. Creative thinking and critical thinking should be separated rigorously. During the evaluation phase there will be plenty of room for risk mapping.

9. Keep It Fun
Although your challenge itself is serious business, you should always keep your brainstorm light hearted. If you stimulate play and keep it fun, people tend to be more open minded and creative.

10. Jot Down Every Idea
Every idea is valuable. Or at least during ideation. Make sure that every idea is written down separately on paper, a card, or a post-it. Save every idea. Even the wild ones or those that look similar to other ideas.

11. Use Ideas As Stepping Stones
It’s easier to tame a wild idea, than it is to make a boring one look interesting. Stimulate crazy ideas. It’s those ideas that can often be used as stepping stones to find original and feasible alternatives.

12. Go for Quantity
As Linus Pauling used to say “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” When it comes to creativity, quantity breads quality. Always aim to have loads of ideas at the end of your brainstorm.

13. Stay Focused
If the creative juices start flowing it’s easy to get distracted. Don’t. Stick to your challenge. It needs all your attention. Write down your challenge and keep it in sight. Regularly remind the participants of the main goal.

14. Evaluate Like A Creative
Don’t become conservative at the end. Don’t choose the obvious ideas alone. Explore the wild ideas and see how you can make them work. Can you extract a principle or tweak them a bit?

15. Think About The Next Steps
Generating ideas is just one part of the process. You are not there jet. Figure out what needs to be done next and who is going to do it. (Build a prototype, test the idea, create a business model etc.)

P.S. If you enjoyed these ingredients, yet prefer to see a real chef at work, please contact us. We organise and facilitate creative sessions and we’d love to help you with successful brainstorming.

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