Nothing is more upsetting than a blank sheet when your brainstorming session is going nowhere. Stress and lack of sleep can sometimes hamper our creative flow, and the longer you stare at blankness in front of you, the more overwhelmed you become at the prospect of being able to come up with nada.
Brainstorming sessions don’t always come up when you’re feeling most inspired, which is why we all need tools for making them more productive. Here are some hacks for igniting your creativity and discovering more innovative solutions to problems.
Most of us are quite apprehensive to share ideas in groups, especially when management or leadership is there. It can be intimidating, and everyone feels pressured to have the best idea. To loosen everyone up and set the tone that all ideas are welcome, start the session off with an exercise where you throw out as many bad ideas as you can. Not only will this set a more relaxed tone but also help get everyone’s creative juices flowing.
Whether you use post-it notes and a whiteboard or an online diagramming tool, lay out your ideas in a visual way to make the bigger picture clear. Having a panoramic view of an issue can help you organize your thoughts, see new insights into your problem, and make connections you otherwise wouldn’t. Mind maps, mood boards, and flow charts are all great ways to begin mapping your ideas visually.
Sometimes, when we can’t find a solution to something, we need to look at it from a different perspective: try looking from the POV of the cause of the problem. Try an exercise where you come up with all the ways you can do the opposite of what you want. Looking for a way to create more sales leads via your blog? Come up with a list of every way you could hinder that process. When we understand our roadblocks more fully, we can create better strategies for preventing those things from happening.
Sometimes visualizing a problem isn’t enough; we need to see it. Trying to solve a customer service issue? Have two team members act out a scenario together to see where issues arise. Problems you wouldn’t have thought of using only imagination are much more likely to come about as you’re trying to work through them in reality.
One of the most common barriers to good ideas is thinking too broadly. Setting specific boundaries is much better when it comes to prompting creativity and innovation.
Sometimes the one person who is challenged to solve your problem is you. It’s hard for most people to imagine what it would be like to not know what they know, and consequently, we end up making a lot of false assumptions about our audience. View things from an outsider’s perspective. How would a 5-year-old approach this issue? What would someone from a different industry think of it?
There are moments when just moving your brainstorming meeting from a conference room to the roof deck or outdoor seating area can stir ideas that people otherwise wouldn’t associate inside. Research has shown that being in nature is particularly useful for creativity.