When you need to generate a lot of creative ideas, or need to try to find a solution for a problem, a good technique to try is brainstorming.
When you brainstorm, you record as many of your thoughts as possible without taking time to evaluate or each individual idea. Often the ideas are extremely creative, unusual, or even bizarre. Very often a realistic solution or idea will emerge from these unusual ideas. Brainstorming also allows you to build from previous ideas – one simple idea might evolve into a totally different idea that is even more useful.
Brainstorming is not difficult to do. It can be done in groups or by yourself. The approach we take here is to brainstorm by yourself. You will still need to follow some simple rules to make sure you get the best results.
Rules for Brainstorming
1. Find a location conducive to the activity. You should be find a place free of distractions where you can focus and think. Eliminate any possible interruption.
2. Allow for a create environment. Sometimes music will help put you in a certain mood. Change the lighting in the room if that is helpful to you. Do whatever you can with your environment to allow you to feel relaxed and open to ideas.
3. Get your tools together. You will need at least a notepad anda pen or pencil. You could also work from a stack of paper and colored pens or pencils. It doesn’t matter what tools you use, as long as you have whatever you need to accurately record your ideas.
4. Do whatever you need to do to accurately capture your ideas. Feel free to record your thoughts and ideas in any way that make sense to you. You may choose to make a list of ideas, or to draw pictures or symbols with your colored pens. Connect ideas with colored lines. Draw boxes around major themes. Anything goes as long as it makes sense to you.
5. Give yourself a time limit. A time limit keeps you from becoming distracted. Get an egg timer or set the alarm on your watch. Fifteen to twenty-five minutes is a good starting time for initial brainstorming sessions. You can feel free to adjust your time limit as you become more experienced.
6. Have a clear, focused objective. Begin by writing a one sentence statement that defines your objectives. Be specific with your objective so you have a place to start. Your objective may be a statement of the problem or a phrase or sentence to help you spark your imagination.
7. Begin writing! Don’t hold back. Write anything and everything that comes into your mind. Stress quantity over quality. Weird ideas are encouraged and no answer is wrong. Build ideas on top of each other. Allow yourself to follow tangents.
8. Don’t censor or criticize your ideas. Whatever you do, do not attempt to evaluate any of the ideas that come into your mind. This is not the time for that! If it pops into your head, try to get it on paper. Don’t be negative about your ideas. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or style.
9. Speed is your friend. Work quickly to avoid the impulse to censor your ideas.
10. Don’t follow one idea too long. Jump around from idea to idea. When you start focusing on one idea or thought, quickly change the subject.
11. If you get stuck, use an idea starter. An idea starter may be a word, phrase, sentence, image, or a question to get your mind moving. You can use anything around you as an idea starter.
12. Take a break. When you reach your time limit, stop! Don’t write anything else. Take a break. Stand up. Walk around. Get a drink. Watch television or play a song from your favourite CD. Try not to think about the brainstorming activity for awhile. The next time you look at your list, you should have a fresh perspective.
Once you have recorded your initial ideas from your brainstorming session, you can begin to organize your ideas. Group similar thoughts together. Connect ideas that are related. Begin to eliminate the ideas that don’t work. Eventually, as you group and re-write your thoughts, you will see a pattern and start to pick out your best ideas.
If you are still stuck, you might try brainstorming with a friend or group of people. Sometimes they can provide ideas that you can build from.
Once you discover how easy it is to brainstorm, you will be on your way to new and creative ideas! You won’t be able to hold yourself back!