Almost everyone running a business is chasing after the next profitable idea. They want an advantage, something exclusive, or something new.
Brainstorming is a big part of generating ideas, but it’s also not always the most efficient way to ideate.
You can, in fact, brainstorm incorrectly, meandering through repetitive, routine thoughts that aren’t going to lead anywhere new.
Brainstorming starts when you zero in on a problem. Most products, services, and systems have a blind spot or issues that users may have pointed out, yet they haven’t been addressed. Start there, then look at what problems you want your business to solve.
Here is how to brainstorm ideas for a business the right way.
A great place to start is by doing a SWOT analysis beforehand. This will identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Any of these points can be used for brainstorming.
In this same vein, you may want to do some research before engaging in a brainstorming session.
Read a book, watch a documentary, or do a Google search. The more stuff you have in your brain, the faster your brainstorming session will go, although this admittedly varies from person to person.
Design Thinking Workshops
Design thinking workshops are quality investments for any business looking to brainstorm. Design thinking works in a lot of ways, but its primary purpose is prioritizing the end-user.
When you brainstorm, this is the perspective you will eventually want to include as you prototype and test ideas.
Design thinking approaches brainstorming as an exercise in empathy with the end-user. Doing this can often produce better ideas while also being a process by which more ideas can be generated.
A successful brainstorming session is short and without distraction or interruptions. Put away the podcasts, music, and computer. No screens, no interruptions.
Sketch out business ideas in a location where you won’t be plagued by things trying to capture your attention.
Some people enjoy having a computer nearby with a single tab open, available for any research purposes. This is forgivable but really shouldn’t be used very often.
Use a Notepad
Just like artists, writers, and musicians, sometimes you need your subconscious to do the work for you.
Sit down with a notepad and a pen, and just write. Write whatever comes to mind. Try to focus on your business but anything that comes to mind, just keep writing.
Set aside twenty minutes. At the end of this period, set it aside. Come back to it in an hour and see if there’s anything there that can be tested or used.
Look to Inspiring Stories
You can’t borrow or plagiarize true innovation, but you can inspire it. Expose yourself to different perspectives.
By looking at how other innovators have come up with their best ideas, might provide you with a different view. It could spark something, from documentaries to podcasts.
Don’t trap yourself into thinking you are blocked in some way. You aren’t. So long as you’re ideating, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the ideas are. The important part is to keep ideating.
Set a Number
Brainstorming is all about quantity. If you’ve struggled with brainstorming in the past, set a timer and a number.
For example, twenty ideas in twenty minutes. Every minute, you write something down and flip over to the next idea.
This way, you’re breaking out of routines and patterns, unlocking new ways to think. Most importantly, you are arriving at a sufficient quantity of brainstormed ideas to work from.
Brainstorm with Others
Even if you’re most inclined to ideate alone, brainstorming in a group session or with just one other person can yield more efficient results.
Everyone’s thinking works a little differently. Different perspectives aren’t a bad thing. When you brainstorm with others, that’s exactly what you get. This is why teams and duos often produce better results than individuals.
No Bad Ideas
When brainstorming, write down and record everything. It doesn’t matter how stupid it is. During brainstorming, you don’t want to be shooting things down, judging, and testing. You just want to ideate and get those ideas down in front of you.
After a brainstorming session, then you begin testing and prototyping and judging the feasibility of what you have. This counts as well if you’re working in a team. Record all ideas. No judgment.
Let your mind wander. Get out of your own skin. Change locations regularly, like a coffee shop, a library, in your car, in your bed, or at your desk.
Experiment a little and try to inspire those creative muscles simply by moving away from the usual.
A new location can breed new ideas. It often does for a lot of people, especially if you’re stuck and aren’t coming up with much. You may be surprised by what it yields.