Brainstorm Like a Boss | Tips and Techniques

Cover Image for Brainstorm Like a Boss | Tips and Techniques

Techniques for creativity are important if you are trying to come up with innovative solutions, products or challenge yourself.

I’m currently trying to solve the problem of hiring top talent by making people better at hiring. We take a blend of science, best practices and a hell of a lot of creativity to burst through those barriers that can stifle our innovation.

Every week, I speak with potential customers, collect data and return to the team with some jobs to be done. One of my favourite things to do with the team to get everyone contributing is to take those jobs to be done and do some brainstorming to see what things I am missing and get some ideas from everyone on the best approach forward.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” - General George Patton

Brainstorming is the process of generating creative ideas and solutions, usually through intensive and free-flowing group discussions.

Brainstorming is a vital process to solve business problems, such as generating ideas for a new product or service. It can be as an individual but usually involves a group under the supervision of an organiser. The effectiveness of this idea-generating method highly rests on the ability of its participants for open communication in a free-thinking environment, as this allows us to draw associations between their ideas and extend the solution space.

Alex F. Osborn formally developed the process of brainstorming and published in his book Applied Imagination. Since then, the process evolved abundantly and occupied by tech companies for many decades for their product designs and business solutions.

Applied Imagination - Principles and procedures of creative thinking by Alex F. Osborn
The original book cover of Applied Imagination - Principles and procedures of creative thinking by Alex F. Osborn

Brainstorming is the combination of causal tactics to solve a problem by thinking out of the box. The process itself encourages people to come up with their ideas and allows them to share their thoughts for a particular solution in a relaxed environment. Meanwhile, some ideas can directly solve the problems while others can be a baseline for triumph close to the solution by generating new concepts.

It is recommended to avoid criticism and gratification during the brainstorming sittings. Just make sure to open up possibilities and let go of the wrong assumptions during the discussion. Judgment and analysis during the brainstorming discussion can damage the evolving ideas and creativity.

Individual vs group brainstorming, which one is better?

Either brainstorming is carried out by individuals or groups, each kind has its pros and cons.

Group brainstorming is more effective in developing awesome ideas. It keeps the idea-generating process smooth and keeps the participants unstuck in the thinking process. The one participant generates the idea to his capacity, and the others follow it intensifying through discussion. But there are some cons also. Group brainstorming limits the number of ideas and keeps expanding the same ideas generated through initial discussion. Mostly, this happens when people start paying more attention to the other’s ideas instead of creating their own. This is known as “blocking” in the brainstorming process. It can suppress the creativity of non-talkative people by the talkative people. This usually happens as the groups do not firmly follow the rules of brainstorming and some bad practices come in during the discussions.

Individual brainstorming has its benefits as well as limitations. It produces a wide range of ideas and solutions comparative to group brainstorming. While thinking in your capacity, you don’t have to concern about the other’s opinion nor to face people’s egos. The individuals are all free to be creative in this way. However, the individuals may not fully develop the ideas as an end product for the solutions. This happens because of their lessen experience as compared to the group collectively.

For the best results, individual and group brainstorming can be mixed to get their synergic effect. This can be created by allowing the individuals to come up with their ideas on a specific problem initially. The wide range of individual’s solutions can then narrow down in group discussions.

Tips for effective brainstorming

The most beautiful product comes when people make the dream of it. So, amazing products originate from effective brainstorming. Sometimes when companies seek input through the brainstorming of their teams, they end up with the tangled solutions not advancing anyways. To make a brainstorming session useful, you must understand the techniques to generate successful ideas.

The first urgency of the brainstorming session must be the collection of a lot of ideas whether they are convenient or not, so try to remember quantity over quality in the early stages.

Make sure the participants are allowed to talk freely without any fear of rejection. Do not let “anchoring” happen. Anchoring can be when some interest toward some specific ideas or persons during the brainstorming sessions. Usually, it happens that the organiser and participants stick to the first few ideas floating initially. This can make the session unproductive.

Techniques to follow

“Brain Writing” is the first step in brainstorming. It is the writing down of all ideas which come after floating the topic within the team. It separates the views from the discussion and avoids anchoring from happening.

Adopt the “Figuring Storming”, try to build an image of how other people will solve this problem. It is like putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to practice your ideas. Try to float some questions in the team like how other influential people will solve this problem if they may face the same? It will help to get a different point of view from every team member.

Another popular way trending nowadays for useful ideas generation is online brainstorming. Virtual brainstorming teams are becoming common in all kinds of tech startups. The evolution of collaboration tools, making it more convenient. Time limit plays an important role. Rapid Ideation in brainstorming is to set the time limit after providing the context to participants. The team members write down as many ideas as they can in the time provided without worrying about the quality of ideas.

An important technique to get everyone involved in discussions is known as Round Robin Brainstorming. After delivering the topic, the organiser of the team receives input from every team member one by one in each round.

Another way to get a fruitful session of brainstorming is to ask questions related to the topic instead of answers. This technique is known as "Starbursting". This style of raising the questions assures that all aspects are covered already before heading towards the final stage.

So, in the next brainstorming session, make your goals clear and use these tips and techniques to get something beneficial out of it.

Written by Niall Maher

Articles and thoughts on running a tech startup and building stuff that people love to use. Founder @ MYQU. Subscribe to my newsletter for new articles and posts I find interesting here.