A Guide to Brainstorming in Business
When starting your own company, or if you’re already in business and are looking to come up with some new, fresh ideas to keep up with modern trends, you and your partners, colleagues, and employees might need to brainstorm. But what exactly is brainstorming? How can it be carried out in a more inventive way?
Here, we’ve made a guide on brainstorming in business, and provided some tips on how you can keep it interesting to ensure the ideas keep flowing.
What is Brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a group method of problem solving using lateral thinking. It’s often considered quite relaxed and informal, and encourages input from everyone taking part. This input is then used to come up with ideas for the group to use, or else will be used to spark off more creative ideas that could lead to a result further down the line.
Brainstorming activities can often help people to “think outside the box”, see things from a new perspective, and get them to open up and be receptive to new ideas. As such, experts often suggest that ideas in brainstorming sessions shouldn’t come with any form of reward or criticism. This is because deep analysis or judgement at an early stage may limit or discourage creativity and idea generation.
Any ideas brought up during brainstorming activities should be evaluated at the end of the session.
Why Use Brainstorming in Business?
Group brainstorming sessions are often a perfect way to generate business ideas, whether you’ve only just started out or even if you’ve been successful for a long time. It means you aren’t limited to your own thoughts, every team member involved gets the chance to speak up and be listened to, and you can collect the rich selection of ideas and examples provided to come up with a solution that works best for your company.
When handled correctly, brainstorming in business helps teams to bond, work in a way which is fun, and solves problems in a positive and rewarding environment.
Brainstorming Techniques and Activities
There are a number of different brainstorming techniques you can use to pull together as a company and come up with brand-new business ideas to suit your needs. If the concept is new to your firm, you may wish to start with a basic brainstorming activity, which we have explained below:
- Gather together a group of people from your firm. Have them address a challenge, problem, or even an opportunity that could come up in the future
- Ask them to generate as many ideas as possible in the time available, no matter how “out there”, they might seem. There should be no criticism at this time
- Review each of the ideas, select the most creative and interesting ones, and then lead a discussion on how to implement, combine, or improve on them to take them forward
If you’d like to come up with something more creative for your brainstorming session, there are a number of techniques and activities you can implement, so you always know you’re making the most of your time in a way that will be beneficial:
Analytic Brainstorming Techniques
It’s often considered easy to carry out analytic brainstorming in business, owing to the fact that most people will have built on these techniques and taken part in activities based around it while they were still at school. When you choose analytic brainstorming techniques, you’ll be working as a group to analyse the problem at hand and using the tools you have available to come up with a creative solution.
Examples of activities you might choose to carry out a session include:
- Mind mapping
- Reverse brainstorming (asking your group how the problem would be caused, not solved)
- SWOT analysis (finding out strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to a planned project)
- Gap filling (stating where you are and where you want to be, and finding ideas to “fill the gap” in between your current situation and your goal)
- Drivers analysis (find out what’s “driving” the problem you’re currently experiencing)
- The Five Whys (start with your problem and ask “why is this happening?”, gather answers and then ask “why does this happen?”, and continue to dig deeper until you get to the root of the problem)
Quiet Brainstorming Techniques and Activities
In some cases, you may find that your colleagues, partners, or employees can’t schedule a brainstorming session. In others, you might find that more introverted members of the group are not sharing their ideas over more extroverted members. Some group members may also find it difficult to speak up about ideas if they think others won’t approve.
In these cases, you may think about activities which allow group members to generate business ideas without having to announce them to everyone. Examples of these include:
- Brain netting, or online brainstorming (brainstorming over the internet, where group members can share ideas privately and then collaborate publicly)
- Brainwriting, or slip writing (each participant anonymously writes down their ideas on index cards, which are then shared randomly)
- Collaborative brainwriting (writing an idea down on a piece of paper and posting it in a public place, before encouraging your coworkers to do the same over the course of a week)
Role Play Brainstorming Activities
By creating role play scenarios with problems your business is facing in mind, you may be able to come up with a range of solutions to solve them. Examples of role play activities for brainstorming include:
- Role storming (participants imagine themselves in the role of people related to your brainstorming goal, e.g. clients)
- Figure storming (a famous figure is taken from history or popular culture and the group discusses how that figure would solve the problem currently faced)
- Reverse thinking (the group discusses how another party entirely might handle the situation, before asking what would happen if the opposite was tried)
Brainstorming Techniques Which Offer Support
These techniques help to ensure that everyone in your group is included in sharing ideas, and that the process is carried out in a structured, supportive manner. Activities you might consider for this include:
- Step ladder brainstorming
- Round robin brainstorming (everyone sharing at least one idea before anyone else shares more)
- Trigger storming (“triggering” people to come up with ideas through open ended sentences or provocative statements)
- Rapid ideation (asking the group to write down as many ideas as possible in a given amount of time, before sharing these with the group)
Creative Brainstorming Techniques and Activities
Using more creative techniques might help to get ideas flowing when you’ve been stuck on the same problem with no solution for some time. These techniques and activities include:
- “What if?” brainstorming (coming up with different “what if” scenarios and their possible solutions, e.g. “what if this problem were a hundred times worse? How would it be solved then?”)
- Charrette (breaking the problem up into smaller chunks for smaller subgroups to discuss, before passing the idea on so another subgroup can build on it)
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