Brainstorming is fun. It’s always exciting to get the gears churning and think of cool new products, features, and strategies for your company. Most companies, including our own, have one tried and true way of brainstorming — whiteboarding. Although whiteboarding is great for getting your team to collaborate during brainstorming sessions, usually the following happens: A few people lead the conversation, everyone comes to agreement, and few people take real risks. After all, one of the pillars of brainstorming, according to Alex Osborn (who first coined the term), is no negativity. Like many other startups, Owler is in the business of disruption, so we’ve been trying new ways to change traditional ways to collaborating. Here are ten uncommon ways to brainstorm.
5-Minute Mind Map Sprint
One of the major flaws of traditional brainstorming strategies lies in the tendency to groupthink. It happens often: An influential person has an idea and everyone starts rallying around it in support, immediately taking the incentive away from bolder, less-conventional ideas. A way to mitigate this tendency is to have every team member create a mind map of the problem at hand and potential solutions. The key to making this successful is doing it privately few minutes after the problem has been presented. Creating a mind map allows team members to show their thought process. Asking your team to write their ideas down makes it more likely be remembered and considered, especially if you have your team members share their top three ideas.
This strategy has the same concept in mind as the mind maps, but further encourages your team members to be active participants of the conversation at hand. A bit more independent than traditional whiteboarding, the key differentiator here lies I having everyone whiteboard at the same time independently, then share with the rest of the team. By having each person walk through his or her solution to the problem, you will probably notice similarities, but more importantly, key differences that would have otherwise been forgotten. To make this happen you do not necessarily need several small whiteboards and can otherwise do this with blank sheets of copy paper.
You’re brainstorming to solve a problem. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could magically solve your problems? That’s exactly the way of thinking that this strategy requires. Instead of thinking “what can we do to solve this problem?” wish for solutions, especially big, radical solutions. The nature of this exercise is to encourage bold, innovative solutions to your problems. This brainstorming strategy pushes the envelope by promoting imaginative thinking that sometimes stays in the back of your mind during most brainstorming sessions.
This may sound counterintuitive, but brainstorming all of the possible worst ideas is actually productive to your thought process. Yes, I’m well aware that negativity has no place in brainstorming, at least according to Alex Osborn’s original conception. However, if you start with terrible ideas, you then establish what the good ideas look like. When you create list of things that would not work, then you have a better sense of what may work well.
Ask Someone Else
Groupthink is a major enemy to successful brainstorming. One of the most likely ways of this happening is rooted in the fact that most teams brainstorm together. Now, of course this has to do with the need to collaborate with your team. No real need to bring in an engineer to a marketing meeting, or vice versa. However, whenever you bring someone new, you get a fresh pair of eyes. And that’s what you want. A friend once suggested that I ask a child how to solve my problem. Why? Because a child seeks the simplest solution, ignoring the hurdles that your team takes for granted. By bringing someone in, even from another team, you have a perspective that can focus on an immediate solution.
Now it’s your turn to tell us about your unique ways to brainstorm. Do you whiteboard? If not, what do you do? Tell us below!