Brainstorms that work
Most ideas come from connections, rather than a sudden stroke of inspiration.
Watch the following video by Stephen Johnson:
His research shows that ideas can be generated from:
- something you’ve been mulling for a while
- what others are doing that can be adapted for your problem
- a new use of an existing technology or practice
- talking to people and making new connections
- new technologies that make new ideas possible
- experimentation, even failed experiments
Brainstorms have to unlock these patterns to find creative ideas. They should include a small number or people with different experiences and viewpoints. They should be fast, snappy, and fun. You need a well framed question that elicits actions not answers, for example: how can we create easy-to-prepare meat products for single people?
Brainstorms can help to reveal possibilities, but breakthrough ideas often come later, upon reflection – so it’s important to leave time to reflect and follow up.
It is critical that you organise a follow up and give feedback on progress of ideas generated during a brainstorm.
To unlock the patterns and stimulate new ideas, try these techniques:
- Set a target for a specific number of ideas within a time limit (e.g., 30 ideas in three minutes). It will stretch your imagination and you’ll come up with less obvious ideas, maybe those that are in your subconscious.
- Take different perspectives. For example, answer through the eyes of your customer, your manager, a child, Bill Gates, a religious leader.
- Put the problem in a different context. For example, how would you solve the problem in the health industry, the fashion industry, transport and logistics, a church.
- Ask people to individually write down ideas, then share with one other and then share with a group. This will overcome groupthink and ensure that every voice is heard.