In a dynamic business landscape with digital transformations and shifting customer behaviours, the value of a good idea is increasingly important. As business advisors, we encourage our clients to generate new ideas and plan their future to unlock their success.
A good starting point is brainstorming, which is a method for discovering creative and out-of-the-box solutions. It’s a process of collaborating with the company, people and their imagination to resolve issues and innovate new ideas.
So, how can you encourage brilliant ideas, get the creative juices flowing and create a comfortable space to unlock lots of new ideas at once via a brainstorming session? Here’s our guide to help you get the most out of the process.
What is Brainstorming?
Whether you’re a CEO, project manager, account director or small business owner – brainstorming is an effective way to exchange new ideas, while creating an overall feeling of cohesiveness and teamwork. During the ideation phase of a project, it’s important to consider the end goal, the issues, and the possible solutions. Teams can approach and produce an array of ideas for things such as marketing and sales, setting up processes, and tasking assignments.
Practically speaking, the methods can be as simple as making lists or as detailed as making a mind map. You can brainstorm using a whiteboard, online software, or just a piece of paper and a pen.
Brainstorming sessions may be about keeping an open mind, but we recommend following these six simple steps to create the ultimate idea space.
Brainstorming in 6 steps
1. Identify the ‘why’
Invite members of your team and set the tone for what is expected and what you are hoping to achieve out of the session. Identifying your business purpose will set a clear intention and help colleagues stay focussed, especially when they experience a creative block. To outline your business purpose, consider what you enjoy doing, the company’s proof points, how you can attract the ideal client and what sets you apart from competitors. Members should approach these questions, plans, and goals without changing the topic or getting distracted so ideas can move in the right direction.
When brainstorming business ideas, a great starting point is to find the thing that will keep moving you forward, also known as your ‘why’.
- Why are you doing this?
- Why is it important?
- Why doesn’t a certain product or service exist?
- Why isn’t a basic/daily task done in a more efficient way?
- Why hasn’t any product or service within a specific space evolved in a while?
- Why? Why? Why?
2. Give permission to wander
Provide room to dream and think outside-the-box by allowing everything involved to put themselves in a creative mindset. Go someplace where you know you won’t be interrupted—for instance, a meeting room away from your normal workspace or somewhere in nature – a local park perhaps—and start by getting quiet. Spend a few minutes to stop thinking of other things and tasks. Focus on creating a blank slate upon which to sketch some business ideas.
Neuroscience tells us that the average brain has an average attention span of around 40 minutes. Organise to take regular breaks after 40 minutes of brainstorming – move bodies, refuel – even 5 minutes will allow the brain to reset.
3. Aim for quantity
Remember, quantity breeds quality. Set aside a manageable amount of time and encourage a broad idea space where nothing is incorrect. In this stage it is more effective to focus on quantity rather than quality – the sifting-and-sorting process comes later. This is where the popular ‘yes, and…’ approach comes in handy. It’s a concept where each person is required to build on the ideas of their colleagues without saying ‘no’ or ‘but’. The method encourages creativity and sets an environment that eases the flow of energy.
To track these ideas, mind mapping is a technique that will help you better visualise an idea. It’s hierarchical in nature and is usually based around one idea, goal or problem. Your team can connect ideas to it and other ideas branch out from them, forming a radial diagram.
Provide different ways for your team to get their ideas down – whiteboards, online mind maps, pen and paper, even large pieces of paper and crayons!!
4. Do your research
Know your target audience – who are they? What are their interests? You should also know your industry – what are the trends? What shifts are there in customer behaviour? Who are your competitors and what are their strengths and weaknesses? These are the types of questions that you and your team will need to ask yourselves before and during a brainstorming session. This will help you discover solutions and unearth ideas that will set you apart from a competitive market.
Don’t forget to utilise the power of social media to unlock information about both your target audience and your competitors.
5. Create an action plan
It’s easy to feel inspired when you are brainstorming, but without implementation, the energy can quickly fade along with the idea. Creating a plan forces you to answer the harder questions like how, when and what actionable steps will you take to execute your ideas.
You may discover that your ideas will support your next business phase. Or you may need to go back to the drawing board. Either way, you are in the right direction because you’re summarising key ideas and eliminating impractical ones.
Assign each team member specific tasks (and deadlines) to ensure the brainstorming session and idea moves forward. Consider ‘accountability’ buddies to keep things moving in the right direction.
6. Share your business idea
The final step is to develop and prepare your ideas before presenting them to others. Give your potential solution a name and a rationale so you can communicate the idea without any confusion or misunderstandings. Asking the people around you for feedback is all part of the brainstorming process. This means you will be informed of any potential risks or criticisms, which helps you improve and build on ideas. Taking different insights and skill sets into perspective will be valuable as it may challenge your ideas in a constructive way.
Using an anonymous system to garner feedback, such as SurveyMonkey, can be a great way for people to feel extra comfortable in providing their true feelings about an idea.
Harvesting new business ideas can be overwhelming and difficult, especially in times of market uncertainty. By following these steps for your brainstorming session, you can ensure the process runs smoothly, allowing you to implement innovative ideas and form new opportunities.
Beyond Advisors offers professional advice for businesses of all shapes and sizes. For any help or assistance on improving your business’ brainstorming sessions, you can get in touch with our helpful team and open your doors to success.