I’ve always been a good brainstormer. Like Dylan in Maggie’s Farm, I’ve got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane. (True, except for the insanity part.)
When you’re meeting with a group of people in a conference room trying to come up with new ideas, and just sitting across a table at Starbucks or Breadco from a client or consultant, inspiration can strike organically. But usually it must be stimulated or, at least, nudged a bit.
Here are some of my thoughts on brainstorming:
- Make a list. Yes, you’ll be making notes during the conversation, but it’s good to generate ideas on your own before you meet.
- Don’t discount any ideas that are shared. If they are outlandish, maybe they can be modified to fit your needs.
- Don’t limit thinking to “outside the box.” Pardon my being metaphorical here, but there are usually good ideas inside the box. Either they’ve not been discovered or were never properly utilized.
- Give everyone an opportunity to speak. Although they may not be as loud as some of us, the less assertive may have the best ideas.
- Keep an open mind. Sometimes it takes a while to wrap your brain around an idea that initially may seem absurd.
- Avoid ignoring ideas that may have been tried before. An idea that didn’t work in 1997 may work in 2014. Those offering input likely have different historical perspectives from you.
- Show appreciation for participation. Even if nothing significant comes from your brainstorming session, you should say thanks for sharing. You may want to solicit input from them in the future.
- Follow up. Revisit the list of ideas that are generated and/or refined during your meeting a couple of days later. Some may be immediately actionable while others may need to percolate a while before they’re ready to go.
The best ideas are golden, commodities to be treasured. Value them.