Brainstorming is an activity you’ve probably heard a lot about, the thought of it might even make you want to roll your eyes! But this post is all about opening your mind and silencing that inner critic for a moment. There is an art and a skill to this technique and many of us may think we are brainstorming when in fact we are only scratching the surface. In this blog post we are hoping to free you up to imagine new possibilities and provide you with effective guidelines so you can brainstorm your way to your own profitable business.
Three Pathways to A Business Idea
There are 3 main ways entrepreneurs come up with a business idea:
- The Lightbulb Moment – The epiphany or the spontaneous business idea that hits you at any time anywhere! Fantastic when it happens to you- pursue it – see where it leads.
- The Insider Idea – This happens when an individual is already knowledgeable and well positioned within a business space when they notice an opportunity. Could you be the person needed to address a gap within your industry?
- The Intentional Route – Not every entrepreneur grows up knowing exactly what they want to do or has a “lightbulb moment”. But if you’re not sure what type of business to start, that doesn’t mean you can’t become an entrepreneur. You just need to set your intention.
Brainstorming is a creative process that can assist with any of the above scenarios. It is a method applied to the beginning stages of a project, and its goal is to end up with a large number of ideas to help define the problem and all of the possible creative solutions. While the first 2 paths to a start-up may happen unintentionally, the third is deliberate and may benefit the most from some good brainstorming.
How to Brainstorm
You can brainstorm using a whiteboard, online software (such as Miro), or just a piece of paper and a pen. However, the key to brainstorming is generating as many ideas as possible in a given amount of time. It’s a form of Divergent Thinking– when you purposefully expand to think ‘outside the box’; as opposed to Convergent Thinking – when you hone in and focus on a specific idea. So, hold fire on the devils advocate for the time being because there are no stupid ideas when it comes to brainstorming.
Five Techniques for Effective Brainstorming Sessions (After Tom Kelley’s The Ten Faces of Innovation)
- Go for Quantity – To get a really good idea you need to cast your net wide.
- Encourage Wild Ideas -Don’t be afraid, don’t judge – the wild edges are often where we find breakthroughs and solutions.
- Be Visual – Sketch ideas to free yourself up and move beyond words.
- Defer Judgement – Suspend that inner critic when it comes to your ideas and other peoples. Using techniques from improv, say “Yes, and …” and build on the ideas being generated.
- One Conversation at A Time – No matter how wild the ideas get, maintain some structure by organising the group setting and resisting the urge to talk over one another.
For truly effective brainstorming, let yourself think freely and save the judgments for later. Where possible, try brainstorming with at least one other person. Everyone’s minds are a little different, and bringing a few team members in to offer ideas from different perspectives is often the best way to explore ideas you wouldn’t have come up with during individual brainstorming.
Brainstorm Through Blending
If you are on the third pathway – The Intentional Route– i.e., you know you want to start a business but you’re not sure what type of business you want to start, then this approach will help you think of a solid start-up idea:
- Brainstorm Around Purpose – What do you enjoy doing? What are you curious about? What are you good at? How do you want to serve the world? – Record all your answers.
- Why? – At every stage challenge yourself with the question ‘why?’ it will push your enquiry further. Don’t forget to make notes.
- Now Blend – Take two or more of these ingredients and blend them together. Combine your interests, flip them, tweak them. Brainstorm creative ways they intersect with your skills. Mix X with Y and see how many potential ideas you get. Have a go and see if you can concoct the perfect mixture and integrate your passions to pathways through brainstorming.