The best thing about brainstorming is that it gives you free range to be silly, spontaneous, and stupid all while attempting to be smart.
Brainstorming Isn’t Just For Creatives
One of the biggest misconceptions about brainstorming is that it is a practice reserved for creatives – writers, designers, musicians, painters. But coming up with good ideas isn’t just for the artsy types.
Brainstorming is a process that should be used by all idea makers. All jobs have problems that need solutions. All positions have processes that can be improved. And all clients have unique needs that require new strategies.
The best path to finding resolutions for problems, processes improvements, and new strategies is brainstorming. There are many ways to brainstorm and many strategies that work for different people in unique situations. Our company uses both group and individual brainstorming strategies to develop solutions, strategies, and big ideas.
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The internal CopyPress team uses group brainstorming to come up with concepts for our blog. Once a month, our team gathers around pizza and a white board and we toss out ideas.
Sometimes we have terrible ideas. Sometimes we have mediocre ideas. But every once in a while, we have really great ideas, and that is what matters most.
Our brainstorming sessions are successful because we follow a few simple rules about group brainstorming.
We Avoid Group Think – Group Think occurs when the group is afraid to speak up or reject an idea that they don’t agree with. For group brainstorming to work, everyone needs to be confident in sharing their ideas, even if it goes against an opinion from someone higher on the totem pole. Likewise, office authorities have to be okay with having their ideas nitpicked by lower level staff.
We Have No Fear – Ideas are not always good. But that is part of what makes brainstorming so great. Being bad is just as good as being good. Often bad ideas tossed out during group brainstorming sessions get molded into great ideas. A bad idea is 100% better than no idea at all.
We Have a Moderator – There should always be a team lead for a brainstorming session. Make sure to designate a lead to help keep the meeting organized and on track. The moderator should:
- Start the meeting by stating clear goals and objectives
- Stop idea trails that are leading nowhere or headed off track
- Positively reinforce the group to encourage idea sharing
- Make sure the meeting ends when it is supposed to
We Have a Designated Note Taker – Rather than have the entire group jotting down notes, assign one person to collect all of the ideas during the meeting. That person should share the notes with the entire group after the session so that last minutes ideas and notes can be added to the list.
We Bring in Outsiders – Don’t fill the brainstorming room with creatives. Bring in the receptionist, the tech guy, the bookkeeper. Unique and varied perspectives are vital to keeping creativity round and fresh.
We Are All a Little Weird (and We Laugh A Lot) – As previously mentioned brainstorming is the best time to be stupid, silly, and spontaneous. Brainstorming shouldn’t feel like work. If it does, you probably won’t have much success at finding fresh, new ideas. Don’t be afraid to be weird. Think about some of the best commercials out there. GEICO cave men, E*TRADE talking babies, and iD Gum bald eagles with hair – a lot of those ideas sound stupid and weird at first, but are actually kind of awesome.
CopyPress uses a team of writers that are spread across the country. Because these writers are often on their own during their brainstorming sessions, they have to brainstorm in individual ways that work for them. Here are a few ways that our CopyPress team – both internal and external get their idea on.
Go Back to the Basics
“I stay current on topics in unrelated industries and look for connections to my niche.” – Stefan Winkler
“I still make the good old brainstorm tree with bubbles and stems on a piece of paper.” – Cara Crockett Stromness
“I’ll list out several ideas on Workflowy and then go back and choose what I like. I like not having to have any organization, as that, for me, undermines my creativity.” – Brian Neese
“For Sharebait I do TONS of research until I find something that makes me curious.” – Alana Birky
“I like to take the concept and create brainstorming bubbles around the idea – it helps me stem off related themes and give me a birds-eye view of the core topic.” – Lizzie Seedhouse
“I cannot brainstorm on the computer. It has to be done on paper. I make sure all of my thoughts are transferred on paper, then I organize them in to a logic tree.” – Charlie Qi
Get Out of Your Head
Because individual brainstorming is more isolated than group brainstorming, it has room to be more personal. Most of the time, individual brainstorming involves some type of person passion that can help motive the thinker by removing them from traditional working environments.
“I get a teeny tiny seed of an idea, and I ponder if for a few days. Then, right before I’m ready to get to work, I go take a shower and start outlining my piece in my head: what phrases to use, the general direction of the piece, and what I want to say. Then, I go write.” – Nathan Evans
“For biggies, I go to the gym for an hour. For the little ones, I wrestle with my dogs. They always have great ideas!” – Christy Wilson
“Paper and pen, I’ve got so many ideas they just flow out. But sometimes to ponder deeper a walk to think helps.” – Melanie Toye
“I love to watch TV and movies. It relaxes me, and sometimes a storyline I’m watching will spark an idea for me.” – Andrea Buginsky
“I generally pace around my apartment and mutter to myself like a crazy person” – Jaime Spector
“I like to ask myself questions about the topic while I’m driving. Something about driving helps get my creativity moving.” – Raubi Perilli
“I put in headphones, turn on Spotify (since I know all of my own music) and walk around my neighborhood. A change of scenery and noise often helps.” – Belle Bell
“I also love using Spotify, I listen to a really upbeat playlist, get some caffeine (preferably red bull) and then I go through a long list of inspirational and motivational websites I have bookmarked, and just see what the rest of the industry is working on.” – Derek Fast
“I usually write all of my ideas on paper to get a better grasp on where I’m trying to go with my project. I also try and do some sort of activity like cleaning, exercising, or running errands to clear my mind.” – Alli Vila
“Ask my friends what comes off the top of their head when I mention ideas and synonyms. It’s a way to view the topic from various vantage points and sometimes they give you something that would never have crossed your mind.” – Derek Miller
These are just a few ways to get the creative juices flowing. For even more idea about how to get the big ideas to pour in like a midsummer monsoon, stop by CopyPress Community for more ideas and tricks for brainstorming.