We all find ourselves needing new ideas in business, and sometimes we lack inspiration at the right time. Rather than put change on hold, gather your key staff, advisors or stakeholders, and do some serious “Brainstorming”.

Brainstorming is an over-used word, and not many people understand that it is a legitimate, disciplined creative business process that quickly produces real results and new ideas.

Getting started

You will need the following props or equipment:

  • Large sheets of paper – minimum A3 but better A1 or even A0.
  • Whiteboard if available, otherwise just use paper.
  • At least 4 colours of pens to suit both paper and whiteboard.
  • Have plenty of water and mints available, the brain needs fluids and sugars to work efficiently.
  • A comfortable venue, quiet, with NO distractions.
  • Turn off all cell phones and email devices.
  • Set a duration at the outset – if you haven’t solved the problem in 2 or 3 hours (if it’s a big one), you probably won’t in this session – reconvene.

Try to have all participants walk around the block, do some simple stretches, or dance for a couple of minutes before starting – get some oxygen into the brain!

Simple steps to brainstorming success

  • Elect a “leader” who will control the process. The leader should preferably have no emotional involvement or “stake” in the process or decision in hand. Use an outside facilitator if you need to, it’s worth it.
  • State or define the problem or question clearly on a sheet of paper or on top of the whiteboard. Use big writing – if on paper, blue-tack to the wall.
  • The leader invites everyone to contribute all their ideas and any words associated with this problem or business issue. NO discussion or criticism of any idea is allowed. Simply write them down as spoken on whiteboard or paper. The key part here is “No discussion or criticism” just ideas, words and sentences. Copy them all down, and cut off any attempt at discussion, ruthlessly but politely!
  • When the rate of ideas and word production visibly and obviously starts to slow down, the leader says: “STOP – let’s discuss what we’ve got so far. Can we delete any of this? Can we group ideas or words together? Should we “Park” some of these ideas for future use?”.  Start with grouping, delete any ideas that the WHOLE group unanimously agrees should be deleted. Nominate a “scribe” to note down parked ideas for future use.
  • The ideas will start to flow again, prompted by the discussion. As soon as it is visible or obvious that the flow has started again, the leader must instantly say: “OK, no discussion or criticism again now, let’s just capture these ideas in writing”. Go until the flow slows or stops again.
  • Repeat steps 4 and 5 until a clear “winning idea” emerges. This may take a while, but sometimes the whole process is over in an hour. Don’t be afraid to call a halt and go for lunch if the ideas have stalled.
  • If the ideas are in full flow – DON’T STOP until the ideas dry up again.
  • In the case of a business name, brand concept or new product idea, you would then take the top 3 ideas and test them on a focus group. You can use professional research companies, or if it’s appropriate then you might use existing customers, suppliers, friends or other people such as business advisors or industry opinion formers (influencers).
  • Try to use people NOT involved directly in the business or brainstorming group. Use confidentiality agreements as needed (usually, only for technical inventions, new products, brands or processes, minor improvements are not usually that sensitive).
  • Check any ideas or names for patent or trademark infringement if appropriate – usually only for technical or larger product or service launches.

Once you get into the swing of disciplined, managed brainstorming you’ll wonder how you managed without it!

Not only will you find your team more involved, but they will also be more motivated and you’ll get greater buy-in and less obstruction of new ideas and processes.

Start today!

By Rod Way