An old-fashioned brainstorm is not good enough
When asked about creative thinking, most people will immediately name brainstorming. Brainstorming is undeniably the most well-known method for creative thinking. What most people don’t know, however, is that brainstorming often is a rather weak procedure.
Often, brainstorming is weak (but it doesn’t have to be)
Brainstorming is ingrained in people’s minds. Not surprising, considering the method has been around for over 50 years… Advertising guru Alex Osborn came up with the popular setting for creative problem-solving. The main element of brainstorming is suspending judgement. Where people normally tend to unleash their ruthless criticism on any idea that is slightly out of the ordinary, during a brainstorming session this is out of the question.
Suspending judgement is great. It makes sure anyone can share strange ideas, without being afraid of getting shot down. Because it is often the weird suggestions that lead to the most original ideas, this is a clever principle. Bizarre ideas lift the spirits in a group (as they make people laugh) and work as springboards to creative solutions. Because of this, brainstorming is absolutely an improvement on ‘normal’ logical thinking.
However, one thing has to be kept in mind. Although brainstorm-participants will suspend their judgement, they will still mostly mention things they’ve already thought about before. ‘Old’ ideas are shared. There will be ‘old’ ideas that people normally wouldn’t dare to share, but they’re old nonetheless.
Old-fashioned brainstorming is weak. Very few truly new ideas will arise in an average brainstorming session. This is no surprise as participants still use their old ways to come up with ideas. Just like any other day, they use past experience and well-known patterns to muster up solutions to the challenge at hand.
Luckily there is a very effective way to break free of your existing thinking patterns. A way that, unfortunately, is rarely covered in a brainstorm. I’m talking about the use of thinking techniques of course. Thinking techniques will help anyone with a functioning brain to come up with unusual, creative ideas. Ideas that are perfectly logical in hindsight, but bizarre and unconventional at first glance. There are many different thinking techniques out there. You can ask yourself if and how nature already solved your problem, you can exaggerate a certain aspect of your challenge till it’s completely ridiculous or you can use a random subject to help you get started.
Don’t limit your idea generation by merely focussing on the suspension of judgement. Actively shake up your brain and start generating the most innovative solutions.
What is your experience with brainstorming? Have you ever participated in one? And did you use thinking techniques to get the stream of ideas flowing? Please let me know in the comment box below.
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Curious about other ways to improve your brainstorm sessions?
While in many companies brainstorming is weak, there are many ways to hugely improve your brainstorm sessions: