Top tips on how to brainstorm

“It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.” – Edward de Bono

The importance of coming up with ideas is integral to business success – it’s these ideas which can help us find solutions, share knowledge and increase collaboration. These ideas not only feed into tactical activities, but support the bigger strategic picture too.

Coming up with new ideas isn’t just about creativity and being as wild and whacky as you possibly can be (although sometimes it helps). After all, creativity still needs to be managed to make sure the ideas are relevant and focused on the end goal.

Lateral thinking can also give you the ability to think differently about a particular subject or challenge to make sure you’ve considered a wide range of possible angles and perspectives.

here are a number of brainstorming techniques which can be used, but a particular favourite here in the Ascent PR office is from Edward de Bono and uses lateral thinking to generate creative ideas. Here’s how it works:

Random entry brainstorming – Edward de Bono:

  • Define the focus of the brainstorm (for example, a product launch);
  • Choose a randomly selected noun (have a numbered list of 50 nouns, ask someone to pick a number and use the relevant noun);
  • Ask four members of the team to say the first word they associate with that noun (i.e., if the noun is holiday, I might say camping);
  • Go through each of the four associated words (spending no longer than five minutes on each one) and come up with ideas on how you could achieve the focus of the brainstorm by using that word (for example, a camping trip for key customers/media, a ‘be prepared’ Scout guide, a Swiss knife – a tool which solves all your needs). Remember the key here is quick-fire so the ideas should be the first things that come into your head; and
  • Go through all the ideas and think about whether and how they could work.
It’s a great technique for pushing you to think in a different way, and hopefully come up with some new ideas.

Tips for better brainstorming:

  1. A leader should keep the focus. A leader should agree the purpose of the brainstorm with everyone at the start and make sure everyone is brought back on track if ideas start to deviate;
  2. Check the time. Set a strict time limit and keep to it – sitting there waiting for an idea to happen will waste time. Also think about the time of day – is a brainstorm at 4pm on a Friday really going to get the best results?
  3. Practice makes perfect. Perhaps a daily brainstorm is a little over the top, but getting internal and external team members together on a regular basis will mean that ideas generating forums will become second nature;
  4. Have fun. If everyone enjoys the brainstorm they are likely to generate more ideas. Consider whether the surroundings are a fun environment, can you bring in biscuits, or start the brainstorm off with a funny anecdote that’s relevant to the topic, to help get people in the right frame of mind; and
  5. Think about what’s next? So you’ve come up with some ideas, what happens with them now? Before you leave a brainstorming session work out what actions need to happen to turn the idea into a reality and allocate responsibilities with deadlines.
Sara Lewis is managing director at Ascent PR.

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