idea Generation

Why brainstorming is still an effective idea generation tool.

brainstorming session

Example from client brainstorming meeting.

Many people are afraid of the word “brainstorming” but I think it is still one of the best techniques around. Brainstorming was actually developed by Alex Osborn in the 1940s and 1950s when he was frustrated by his employees’ inability to develop creative ideas for new ad campaigns. The theory behind brainstorming is that you diverge and then converge … so what does this mean?

Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous and free-flowing manner … so many ideas are generated in a short amount of time. After diverging the ideas, we then organize the ideas in a more structured way using convergent thinking. Usually the group is involved in the divergent process, but when it comes to honing in on ideas, it is the management team or key stakeholders that determine the best ideas to implement. During a brainstorming session, no ideas are bad, and people should never put down another persons idea.

What can you use brainstorming for?

  • Name your business, product or service
  • Write a mission or vision statement
  • Generate long-term goals and objectives
  • Develop new marketing or business strategies
  • Solve a particular business problem

Who should participate?

Ideally you want a cross-section of people that includes key stakeholders as well as people on the front line.  You will also want to have decision makers present who will help with buy-in for what you are trying to accomplish. If you’re a small business or sole proprietor, then consider teaming up with a small group of business associates and help each other brainstorm.

The benefits of brainstorming?

The benefits of brainstorming are many, but here are the top reasons:

  • Brainstorming opens up lines of communication between people at different levels in the organization.
  • Brainstorming brings people together and can improve bonding – both within the team and across departments.
  • Brainstorming builds buy-in and excitement for future projects at all levels of management.
  • Brainstorming is fun – and when done right, people leave feeling good about the experience.

There are many techniques you can use for brainstorming. Some of my preferred methods include mind mapping, post-it note exercises, small group brainstorming tasks then regroup and share/build your ideas, and storytelling. Brainstorming does require some advanced planning, and if you considering brainstorming with a larger group, you may want to consider hiring a facilitator to help with planning and to keep the group focused and on task.