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5 Simple Steps to Master the Art of Brainstorming

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Everything that you see around originated from an idea. It is that idea that takes the form of anything, from a product or solution to deciding what you are going to do next with you life. Sometimes we get ideas that are so great that we even doubt if they came out of our own head.

Other times, we are plainly frustrated over the mediocrity of our ideas. There is an art behind coming up with really great ideas every time you brainstorm by yourself or with your team.

Here are five simple steps to master the art of brainstorming:

Step 1: Avoid the trap of the favourite idea

An idea enters our head, and it becomes our favourite idea. Although it could be a pretty good one, it blocks the incoming of any other idea — which could indeed be much better.

  • Make a list of ideas for the given purpose. Do not pick one yet. Put your idea on the list and detach from it, no matter how good it seems at the moment. Then, move on to other possibilities.
  • Break the brainstorming session into segments. Schedule other important work in between, so that you begin with a fresh mind. This is how you can avoid getting trapped in a single thought pattern.

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour” – Mary Kay Ash

Step 2: Dumb down your standards

You might hold yourself in high regard. But in order to excel at brainstorming, you have to let go of your intellectual self. Realize that your critical mind cannot efficiently confront the situation in front of you. It is time to wake up the child within you.

  • Include every single idea that enters your head, no matter how stupid it sounds. Sometimes, the most genius solution is hidden in a very stupid idea.
  • Prioritize dumbing down. Dedicate an entire session or two to think about all the worst ways you can think of doing the task at hand.
  • To dumb it down even further, consult someone not directly related to the project. That will add greater variety to your list.

Step 3: Let your ideas rot

By now you’d have a long enough list of ideas and absolutely no idea what to do with it. It is time to leave your idea list for a while. Go out hiking, or maybe just a coffee, if you are chasing a deadline. Carry your list ideas along with you.

This is the part where magic happens. This is where ideas intermingle and get refined. They also mix up with other experiences of your life. For example: In the 1980s, while Steve Jobs was working on the revolutionary Macintosh, it’s ‘just-plug-in-and-use’ feature was inspired by a newly born calf that started walking within a few minutes of its birth; a scene that Jobs had once witnessed. This is how life makes our ideas incredible by flowing in from unexpected places if you let it.

Just like different ingredients rot together and ferment to produce a great wine, our ideas also transcend into something else if you allow them to ferment. Life colours them in different flavours. They get refined. Stupid ideas combine with brilliant ones, making them even better. In a short while, you will have developed clarity over your ideas. And unworthy ones simply wither off.

Step 4: Find patterns

Once you are done with the process, the ideas on your list would not be the same as before. When you get back to them, they are not the same bunch of random thoughts. Interesting connections would have been formed among things in and out of the list. Pick up the ones that seem to be standing out. Figure out which other ideas seem to be supporting or enhancing the good ones.

“No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered with a searching but at the same time steady eye.” – Winston Churchill

Step 5: Analyze the solutions

Then comes the last stage where you finally apply your critical mind that you had switched off in step 2. Analyse your results. List the pros and cons with each of the few selected ideas on a piece of paper. Look at the efficiency, scalability, implementability and other factors that might count in your scenario. And choose the best idea, which would be pretty obvious by now.

What not to do next

Once you have gone through the entire process, the solution you would have at hand shall be many folds better than the one formed directly through practical thinking. This time you thought as an artist. But being an artist has its cons.

Since you have set your brain on a stormy mode, it will keep coming up with ideas one after the other. This process will continue even after you have decided upon a particular idea. It is really like choosing the best rose from a 2 acre rose plantation. You have to understand that there is not one way to do something. Otherwise, the lizard brain will start using your perfectionism as an excuse to procrastinate.

Make a mental note for yourself before you begin the entire process that you are going to avail as much time as possible for a thoroughly elaborate brainstorming, but once you are done with that, you will shut down the thinking machine. It is time to put in the hard work to manifest your golden idea into a breakthrough reality.

What are some things you do to make brainstorming more effective? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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