Better Brainstorms

Marie Formica

Category: Strategy

10.21.2013

NJI Brainstorm

At NJI, we come up with ideas. A lot of ideas.

Most of the time we have formal brainstorming sessions to keep track of all the good ideas rapid fired from our creative team. But then again, sometimes we need a little help.

Here are our 5 top ideas that you can choose from to keep brainstorms active, productive and a little fun (even if you’re just brainstorming with yourself).

1. Stay with the problem
Instead of sprinting to solve a problem, it’s best to dig around it, according to the Harvard Business Review. What does this mean? First, think hard to find the actual challenge in a problem– then think harder to find its “essence.” Next, ask experts from diverse backgrounds for their solutions they created to similar underlying problems. By cracking open the problem and scrambling it in brainstorming sessions, you can help your clients (and you) think differently about a challenge.

2. Hold stuff
We dumped a bag of children’s toys on the table at one of our recent brainstorms. Toys are meant to expand minds, challenge typical ideas and encourage creative play. They did all these things and more: They were distracting in the best way by breaking the ice and making things less formal. You don’t have to use toys, of course. Other options are pencils and pens, markers, origami creations, puppies– what you hold onto is up to you. If you want to go really fancy, consider getting some tools designed for brainstorm.

3. Lower your expectations
Keep those expectations low. Do we mean, accept and glorify ideas that aren’t up to your standards? No. Do we mean, don’t even bother to think of anything good? No, we mean, don’t worry so much about getting the perfect solution when you’re only brainstorming. If your first idea on a project is “balloon animals,” write it down. Keep the attitude positive and accepting, not critical. Your brain will thank you. The idea after “balloon animals” may be the best one you’ll have all year.

4. Have snacks
As you may know, we love snacks. We rely on them to get our work done throughout the day. We especially rely on  them for brainstorming sessions. Some of our best meetings ever are those that also introduced snacks. Keeps the mind limber and the belly quiet. And if you’re in a place that will let you crack one open, research shows beer helps creativity.

5. Say YES to everything
In the same way that you should lower your expectations (see idea #3), you should plan on saying “yes” a lot more. “Yes and…” is the stock answer improvisational comedians use for any situation that occurs. It encourages people to keep coming up with genius concepts. You don’t have to actually say the words “yes, and” but keep the attitude in mind to keep ideas flowing.

Happy brainstorming!

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