Whether you’re in a small business or enterprise, you will need to think of a new business idea to help grow the company or a solution to solve a current issue. Developing, implementing, and testing an idea or solution costs a lot of time and money. That’s why it’s important to check all the available options and to find the best one before executing it.
One of the best ways to produce an idea or solution is through a brainstorming session. Of course, there are also times you just suddenly think of one, maybe while doing personal errands or when you’re about to sleep (make sure to note it down as soon as possible so you won’t forget). But when you need to think of an idea or find a solution, right here and right now, it’s difficult to produce one. Most of the time it’s because of a mental block or maybe lack of information or understanding about the issue.
One way to help you or your team produce ideas or solve problems is with a brainstorming session. Besides the traditional way, you can run your brainstorming sessions with a twist. If it’s hard for your team to brainstorm or you have a shy teammate, here are some techniques you can use to help and encourage everyone to share their thoughts.
This is a visual technique created by Tony Buzan to enhance or improve brainstorming sessions. It can be used by a group or individual to organize thoughts, generate a creative idea, or find solutions. It focuses on a problem or a goal and then surrounds it with interconnected ideas or solutions, which helps people who are more visual.
To do this technique, all you need is a blank sheet of paper and pencils (you can just use one but Buzan suggests to use different-colored ones). Place the problem or goal, which can be a word, image, or question, at the center. Ask your team to suggest a word, concept, or question related to the center and then connect them with a line. This will help you find different ways to solve the problem or reach the goal of your business. You can continue adding more lines to the second level or layer or sub-topics, as long as it is still related.
For example, if we were to create a mind map on how to brainstorm effectively. We will first put a layer of challenges such as shyness and mental blocks. After, we can add a layer of different solutions for each problem. The result should show different ways on how to mind map. We can use the technique that connects or answers most of the challenges.
You may also use a whiteboard or even a digital tool. Here are some free online mind mapping software programs you can use: Mindmup, Canva, Lucid chart, and Mind Map Ninja.
Traditional brainstorming sessions can sometimes deter idea generation and create confusion. If everyone is speaking at the same time, then an idea really isn’t heard. There are times a person won’t be given a chance to share his brilliant idea or worse, he might just forget about it.
Brainwriting or slip writing is a technique where a group individually writes down their ideas or solutions on a piece of paper or index cards. This was created by Professor Crawford, which is why this technique is also called Crawford slip writing.
The process is simple. After the team writes down their thoughts, they will each be given a chance to explain what they wrote. Once the explanation is done, the other members can provide suggestions on how to improve it.
To make sure that it won’t take too long, establish how many ideas should each one suggest and for how long can they think about it. The most common brainwriting method is 6-3-5. A moderator supervises six people who will write down three ideas in five minutes. With three ideas, this will also make the explaining part faster.
If everyone has busy schedules, you can also use a collaborative brainwriting technique. Instead of spending part of the session to wait for each individual to think of ideas or solutions, you can do it days before the session. Get a large piece of paper or use an online document that contains a concern or a question then ask your team to jot down their thoughts and all their ideas about it. When you meet, all you have to do is discuss the most promising ideas or solutions.
Here’s an online tool that offers a digital board for collaborative brainwriting.
Starbursting produces different results than traditional brainstorming. Instead of generating an idea or finding the solution, this technique aims to get the right questions. It will also show different aspects of the opportunity or issue that a business is facing.
Most brainstorming sessions cannot start if there isn’t a question to answer. There are also times that the whole session becomes a waste if the right question wasn’t asked. This technique helps you take a step back and see the bigger picture.
Starbursting can be done by one person or a group. To use this technique, draw a six-pointed star on a piece of paper, whiteboard, or digital board. Place the 5W’s and 1H at each point. Inside the star, place the opportunity, goal, or challenge you want to discuss. Create the questions that relate to the central topic starting with either who, why, when, where, what, and how.
For example, the center of your star is business expansion. You can place:
- Who is our new target market?
- Why did we choose this market?
- When will we execute this?
- Where is our new target market?
- What will we sell to them?
- How do we connect to them?
After forming these questions, it will be easier for you or the team to suggest answers and work with those ideas.