September 3, 2021

How to Brainstorm Productively: Tips to Make It Worthwhile

Creativity is a crucial skill, especially in the 21st century. It is also subjective and qualitative—what one person considers creative might not be so for another. Although it’s debatable whether creativity can be taught or not, one thing you can do is to inspire creative thinking. One way to do that is by disciplining yourself to produce ideas through brainstorming sessions.

Many people have a love-hate relationship with brainstorming. On the one hand, it is a reliable way of producing ideas or solving problems. On the other hand, handling a brainstorming session can be tricky whether you’re flying solo or part of a group. 

In marketing, ideation is crucial in planning campaigns, creating posts, and drumming up ways to engage people online. Here are things you should know about brainstorming.

What Makes a Good Brainstorming Session?

People cannot be creative when stressed, but they can train themselves to deliver inspired work despite stress. Discipline is essential in creativity, and brainstorming eases you into the mindset you need for it. Here are things to remember when conducting a brainstorming session:

Produce as many ideas as possible

Workers today are well-versed in optimizing everything, including resources. In brainstorming, though, less isn’t always more. If you have plenty of ideas and seeds of inspiration, you will have plenty of sources for your output. 

Welcome everyone’s ideas equally

Don’t criticize others’ opinions or reject their ideas because you think they are “weak” or have holes in their reasoning. Ideas are rarely produced complete—if you allow incomplete thoughts their time in the spotlight, someone else might spot something in them that you didn’t and build upon them, producing a more substantial concept that your team can work with.

In a similar vein, don’t write off ideas for being “crazy.” It’s always easier to scale back instead of up.

Nothing is final at this stage

The best brainstorming sessions are ones where everyone provides input for refining earlier concepts. All opinions are valid before the group decides on an action. When you allow people to think of this stage as temporary, it helps them “play” and make better associations among concepts.

Is Group or Solo Brainstorming Better?

There are no right or wrong ways to approach brainstorming, and people can develop great ideas either way. It depends on the nature of your work and the values of your company. Does your team prioritize collaboration and getting people on the same page? Conversely, do they prefer to nurture people’s independence?

A good compromise is combining these two approaches. You can start with solo brainstorming and then refine your ideas with the group later on.

What Does Brainstorming Entail?

When you want to generate new ideas, it helps to follow a process. Even if brainstorming hinges on free, unexpected associations, you must structure your ideation with the following techniques:

Using a Mind Map

Often, a mind map is the starting point for a brainstorming session. You can use this technique for both group and solo ideation. It encourages you to write down ideas and follow associations that stem from them.  

You need a sheet of paper, a whiteboard, or an online equivalent to do mind mapping. At the center of the space, you will place your main topic and write ideas around it.

Then, draw lines out of this word and connect it to subtopics. You can extend these ideas and create smaller branches that consist of headlines,  facts, narrower topics, or whatever falls within the larger subject. After completing a map, you’ll have enough “seeds” of ideas that you can refine into even more topics.

Conducting a Gap Analysis

Besides mind mapping, you can also turn to existing sources for ideas. If you’re planning content for your blog or improving your pages so that they rank higher on SERPs, you must focus on opportunities that allow you to add value—no need to reinvent the wheel.

One of the things that can help you is gap analysis. Semrush has a feature that lets you identify keywords you haven’t used in blogs or videos. Brainstorming and creativity don’t need to start from inside your team; You can get great ideas and insights from data.

Using 6-3-5 Brainwriting

Some teams would like to harness the power of brainstorming but are apprehensive of the time it takes to get people together. If you want to generate ideas with your colleagues but find it unproductive to gather everyone around a whiteboard and ask them to shout out ideas, you can try 6-3-5 brainwriting.

This method, which dates back to the 1960s, works when all participants are in the same room. It involves getting a group of six people together to do the following process:

1.  Provide everyone with a piece of paper with a 3x2 grid. Instruct them to write down ideas based on a prompt.

2.  The first round of ideation will last for five minutes—each person needs to write precisely three ideas inside one box on their sheet of paper. 

3.  Then, everyone passes their sheet to the person on their left. Each person reads their coworker’s ideas and builds upon these. They must also write three ideas in the next box.

4.  Continue the process for six rounds—at the end of this, you’ll have a little more than 100 ideas which you can take to a group discussion for refinement.

There might be duplicates among the ideas you produce during these brainstorming sessions. It’s okay—the point is to jump-start the ideation process. You can always whittle your ideas down or distill them to the best parts. However, if you don’t start putting words down, you’ll never have enough information to work with.

Conclusion

People are wired differently. A brainstorming technique that works for you might not be the right one for the next person. The key is to keep doing different ideation methods so that everyone on your team gets the chance to produce ideas the way they want to. 

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