Brainstorming Techniques

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Need fresh ideas? Here’s an exercise that is guaranteed to get those new, creative ideas gushing out.

Here’s an exercise that I do with my team whenever we need to solve a problem or come up with some ideas. It’s a simple brainstorming exercise, but it works beautifully. I’ve used it many times with my team and alone. It can be difficult to get through, but you must suffer through it to get the best ideas. Here’s how it works…

Here’s How to Get that “Money” Idea

Get your people into a room, preferably with no clock. Make sure all cell phones are off and no one has any other plans. It’s very important that there are no distractions. That’s key because this exercise will not work unless everyone is focused on the task. Don’t even have food in the room and go off site if you have to.

At the top of a white board, write a question, problem or goal. Then, list the numbers 1 through 20 from top to bottom, leaving some room at the bottom or to the side of your list. Then, open it up to the group and write down solutions to the problem.

For example, say you’re planning for your next year and you want to set a big hairy audacious goal. I’d write that goal at the top of the white board and then get everyone to come up with at least 20 ideas for achieving that goal. Here’s what will happen:

The first 10 or so are always the easiest. They’re the same answers or solutions that you’ve always come up with and aren’t very creative. That’s fine. Don’t discourage any of them. We want to get those out of the way.

The next 3 or 4 start to get a little tougher and once you get to 15, 16 and 17, it becomes nearly impossible. This is when they start to stir in their seats and resist the exercise. They’ll want to find a reason to leave the meeting because you’re forcing their brains to push open that proverbial box in their head to think outside of it. And it’s uncomfortable for them and for you. If they have cell phones with them, this is when they’ll start looking at the time and checking text messages, but you can’t let them. You need to push. Force them to come up with something, no matter how ridiculous it is. It’s also important that you get everyone in the room to participate in the exercise. Nobody gets a pass. Still, they will try to resist. You need to be tough.

They’ll likely come up with some real lame ideas at this point, but then something really cool happens. You’ve forced out-of-the-box thinking. You’ve forced them to break that barrier that has kept them from really expanding their minds so numbers 18, 19 and 20 will likely be some of the best ideas you’ve ever heard. They’ve exhausted all the same ideas they’ve always had and have risen above the usual garbage into new territory. This is where true creativity lives. And this is where you’ll find that big hairy audacious goal.

Here’s the Magic

And then, even something more beautiful happens. Now that they’re in uncharted territory, they often keep going and come up with 21, 22 and 23 ideas, even more sometimes. I’ve done this exercise and have had my most creative ideas come at 24 or 25.

This is such an awesome way to brainstorm and I guarantee if you execute this properly, you’ll get that “money” idea that no one has thought of before. And because they’ve sweated through this exercise together and are now having fun, everyone in your team will buy into it.

You shouldn’t discourage any ideas unless the meeting deteriorates into a bunch of nonsense. This could happen if you have some silly characters on your team and they feel like their brains have been maxed out. It’s alright if you have fun with the exercise. It’s your job to keep?everyone on?point. That’s the easy part. Your team will be very pleased with themselves and will be eager to started on the idea. It’s utter jubilation – Now you have to execute that money idea.

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  • […] The worst thing you can do is set a goal yourself and dish it out to your company and expect them to buy into it. They won’t. You need to get them involved with the decision so they take ownership of it. I can’t underscore this point enough. Get your team involved with the decision. Have a contest and vote on it. Bring everyone together in a room and brainstorm some ideas. […]

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