5 Ways to Get More out of Brainstorming

Have you been feeling creatively stuck? Perhaps you work a 9-5 and want to consider looking for a new job or adding a side hustle, or maybe you want to quit everything and pursue a dream. Whatever reason you may have for reading this, you need ideas, and you need them fast!
My favorite way to spark as many ideas as possible is a good, old fashioned brainstorm session.
Brainstorming is very popular, and I have been in several sessions which have been less than ideal. From these experiences, plus trying some out on my own, I’ve been able to curate a list of 5 essentials to which any good brainstorming session should adhere:

  • The real brainstorm should start prior to the meeting

Most of these points are addressed to a group, although they can work for individuals as well. In groups, a common misconception that I’ve seen carried out in these sessions is that most of the members have not given the topic any thought prior to the meeting. While a brainstorm is supposed to be less structured, it should have some structure.
In order for everyone to be on the same page, and for the brainstorm to have the most potential, everyone should do some reading/research on their own prior to the meeting. This allows all involved to have a basic understanding of the concept at hand, which hopefully means that they will come to the meeting having already formulated a couple of good ideas.
For individuals, give yourself a chance to research before you sit down and brainstorm. I’ve been very surprised with how just a little bit of prior knowledge can vastly increase the sessions’ efficiency, and even more so the amount of that brainstorm that actually gets turned into actionable ideas.

  • Use a “talking stick” method

If you’ve been in a couple of brainstorm sessions, you understand that the extroverts in the room tend to dominate 70% or more of the conversation. While everyone is not required to have the exact same amount of time, it is crucial in this type of meeting for everyone to feel heard and respected.
There’s no quicker way to kill the vibe of a brainstorm session than to make someone feel like their ideas aren’t as important as someone else’s. Thus, the talking stick method was born. At its most literal level, this process involves grabbing a stick from outside and stating at the beginning of the meeting that you aren’t allowed to talk unless you are holding the (you guessed it) talking stick! Just set a time limit on how long each person can hold it, and watch the pistons start firing!
For individuals, this is not as much of an issue because you’re the only one talking/thinking. While the literal method may not work for you, you can try a virtual one! Give yourself ample time to write down the ideas you can think of, and then consult ole reliable: Google.

  • Keep a strict schedule

Meetings without time frames usually run too long. That’s just a fact, and the sooner everyone realizes this, the less time we will waste in meetings. You know what I’m talking about, right? You’ve been in that one meeting (or several) that just drags on and on, always seeming to go a few minutes long.
No one likes wasting away in a meeting, especially when it’s a brainstorm session and everyone has other work to finish. So, let everyone know the length of the meeting ahead of time, and don’t go 1 single second over! Seriously, not 1 second.
For individuals, set a timer on your phone and force yourself to stop when the timer goes off. If needed, you can take a small break and then set another timer. However, the practice is still the same. This idea has actually been studied for quite some time and is officially called Parkinson’s law. I highly encourage you to look more into this, and I’ll make a mental note to do a video on this topic later.

  • Challenge your routines

Brainstorming has a very interesting way of inadvertently addressing problems you didn’t even know you had. As you know, some of the deadliest words in business are “We’ve always done it that way.” I don’t think I have to do much explaining here, just ask Toys R Us how “doing what you’ve always done” works out. Newsflash: it doesn’t!
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about/doing things a certain way because it’s always been like that. Use these sessions to grab the status quo by the horns, rough it up a bit, and come away with ideas refined with 2025 in mind (plan for the future, not for now).
This idea works with individuals just as it does with businesses. We all have certain areas where we are set in our ways, when in reality we could be making more money, spending more time with friends and family, or doing other things that give us fulfillment if we got real with ourselves and did things the “right” way because they were right- not because they were normal.

  • Have an implementation plan

Few things kill momentum quite like getting several great ideas and then executing on none of them. Brainstorming is completely pointless if you’re not going to follow through with implementing the ideas, but that’s a very easy thing to do if we don’t adequately plan.
Put together an implementation PLAN, which allocates certain tasks to certain PEOPLE (or yourself if it’s just you), who will complete these certain tasks in a certain TIME, all of which have KPIs which indicate your success in achieving the GOAL.
Being stuck is no fun, but it doesn’t have to stay that way! We just have to be intentional about what we want, and then set a plan to go get it. If you don’t yet have those ideas fully formulated, that’s just fine- try a nice little brainstorm!

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