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Get The Ball Rolling With Brainstorming

Whether it’s time to start thinking of new ways to reach your customers or to figure out what to call your venture idea, getting the creative ideas flowing is no easy feat. If you’re having a hard time finding that great idea, or if the discussion is running a bit off track, give these tricks a shot and see if you can get to that brilliant idea.

Photo courtesy of Andy Mangold

Photo courtesy of Andy Mangold

Prepare your surroundings.

For yourself or others to be able to think freely, we need to be able to feel free. Set up your brainstorming session in a large, comfortable room where everyone has the option to sit or stand (or even lie down?) wherever they want. You want your mindset to be different from how it usually is on a typical day, so try to pick a location that you don’t typically spend time in. Fill this novel location with lots of ways for people to express or take down their ideas – chart paper, whiteboards, post-it notes, sketchbooks, you name it.

Provide context.

A lot of brainstorms start with a briefing about the problem to be solved. Be sure to provide enough background information that will ensure ideas are on target, but not too much information that you’ll get people thinking narrowly. After you’ve explained the problem and any criteria that a solution has to meet, open up the floor for any questions that the rest of the group might have. This is often a great way to get the flow of ideas jump-started!

Break the ice.

If you’re brainstorming with a group that isn’t used to working together, sometimes it can be hard to get the ball rolling. Nobody wants to be the first and only one dancing in a club, and similarly, people often don’t like to be the first and only one to throw an idea out on the table. As the team leader, give The McDonald’s Theory a shot – offer up a ridiculous idea to your team (“Hey, let’s go to McD’s for lunch”), and watch how suddenly everyone has an idea for a better alternative (“How about Holy Guacamole instead?”).

Leave your critical hat at the door.

Although there is a time and place where convergent thinking is beneficial (decision-making, multiple choice tests, etc.), we need to turn our brains on divergent thinking mode when it comes to ideation and brainstorming. Divergent thinking is about coming up with as many possible answers to a question, and is not concerned with which one is “right”.

Techniques such as mind maps and free writing are often great ways to promote divergent thinking. The most important thing for you as the brainstorm’s leader is to make sure that nobody (yourself included) starts picking apart ideas or shooting out objections. Keeping it positive and judgement-free will keep the ideas rolling.

I recommend checking out Tim Hurson’s Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking as a great resource for training your brain.

Give it one last shot.

When you think your list of ideas is reaching a good size or when you feel that the team is starting to fade, take a break but don’t abandon the exercise at the first sign of slowing. Let everyone take 10 minutes to themselves to recharge their brains and reflect on the brainstorm so far; individual time is also important in idea generation. When you bring the group back together, make one last push to add some new ideas to your list. You’ll be glad you did!


Sarah-PhotoSarah Rosenquist

Marketing Coordinator at Stryve Group

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