I was holding the marker, standing at the whiteboard and waiting for someone to give me an idea to write down... but they didn't. They were tapped out. My students had just come up with about 20 ideas and were fresh out of material at this point. Have you been there?
When you're at this point, how do you get the team to dig deeper?
The Brainstorming Dilemma
I'm sure we've all been in a situation where we want to come up with a new, innovative or creative approach to a problem. We get out that blank piece of paper and we stare at it for while. Eventually we write down a couple ideas.
Then, our brain kicks out 5 or 6 ideas all at once and we feel like the floodgates have finally opened! But, if we're honest, none of these ideas seem crazy innovative. At that point... we're stuck and we tell ourselves, "I guess I'm just not that creative after all."
First Rule of Brainstorming
If you want to get the most out of a brainstorming session, the first rule is "There are no bad ideas."The technical term for the type of thinking you want the group to do is called divergent thinking. Let your mind wander and come up with any idea, but by all means never shoot down an idea!
No matter what someone suggests, as crazy as it may seem, you write it down on the board. Don't comment on the idea, just write it down!
As soon as you evaluate or judge an idea, you've just killed the brainstorming. Just remember it this way... Every answer is correct! Now write them down!
Creativity Tool: Change the Perspective
Once your group has been tapped out of ideas, you can get them to come up with even more ideas by using the different perspective tool. Every idea they have come up with so far is most likely from their default perspective... their own!
Get the group to brainstorm ideas from someone else's point of view. You could ask something like...
- How would our customers solve this problem?
- How would our vendors solve this problem?
- How would our executives solve this problem?
These are all questions to get the team to view the problem through a different lens. But if you really want to get a creative solution, you might need to tap into the far-fetched corners of their creative minds. In other words, pick a wild and crazy perspective.
- How would Darth Vadersolve this problem?
- How would The Incredible Hulksolve this problem?
- How would Indiana Jonessolve this problem?
Remember the first rule from above, no matter what somebody says, you write down the suggestion on the board!
Here's where the magic happens...
When people are given the freedom to expand their thinking into the silly perspectives we are suggesting, they'll easily come up with more ideas and many will seem illogical, funny or just plain silly. Write them down.
Someone in the room is going to feed off of a silly idea and join it with something that makes sense. They'll create one of the most innovative ideas the group has ever heard!
The next time you're brainstorming with your team, accept every suggestion given.
And when they're tapped out of ideas, get them to think about the problem through the eyes of someone else, even a fictional perspective.
That's where you'll find the truly innovative ideas!
Until next time,
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Russ Peterson Jr. is the co-founder and Managing Director of iSpeak, Inc. - An award-winning professional development training company. Russ is a speaker, international trainer, and published authoron Professional Sales Communication and Business Communication. He delivers workshops, keynotes, and personal communication coaching services to business professionals in the US and around the world. His leadership blog assists leaders in giving voice to their vision. You can connect with Russ directly through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.