Brainstorm Your Way to Success
Dear Success Seeker,
Last month I showed you how a mastermind group can help you achieve your goals. This month's topic also involves working with a group, however it utilizes an informal group you can use anytime, anywhere. I'm talking about the power of brainstorming.
Brainstorming involves generating a long list of potential solutions to a specific problem or opportunity. One benefit of brainstorming is that it increases the number of alternatives you consider before you take action. By making a comprehensive list you are likely to consider options you may have forgotten or overlooked. However the real power and magic of brainstorming is that it is a creative process. When done properly, brainstorming generates new ideas that vastly expand your view of the world and your sense of what is possible. This makes it an extremely powerful tool for moving yourself forward.
Ask the Right Question
Brainstorming begins with asking the right question. Your questions should clearly define the problem you want to solve and include any requirements or constraints to be met. For example, "What are all the ways we could double our sales without increasing our overhead" or "What are all the ways I could work less while earning more?"
The Brainstorming Process
Once you have a clear question, write it on the top of a sheet of paper, whiteboard or flip chart and begin listing the suggestions offered by your group. No explanation or details are required; just list as many relevant ideas as you can. At first your list will likely contain alternatives you already have already considered or mainstream approaches used by others in your industry or situation. No problem - just keep going.
Entering the Creativity Zone
At some point your group will encounter an awkward silence where no one has anything to add. People may look blank or confused. Excellent! You have finally reached the limits of your narrow, past-based thinking. Don't allow anyone to burst this precious bubble of tension by making a trite comment, telling a joke or calling for a break. This is the magic moment at which you begin to generate new and truly creative solutions. Experienced brainstormers anticipate and celebrate this tension because it is the place where breakthrough ideas are created. If you work through the discomfort you will be amazed by the new possibilities that emerge.
Rules for great brainstorming
1) Every idea is a good idea: The purpose of brainstorming is to generate new solutions and expand your perspective. Do not assess or pass judgment on suggestions until the end of the idea generation process. Include all ideas on your list, no matter how irrelevant, impractical or ridiculous they seem.
2) Encourage bizarre, ridiculous and exaggerated ideas: It seems counterintuitive but you actually want outrageous, impractical, even illegal ideas. Exaggerate to the extreme. Out-of-the-box ideas reduce inhibitions of the group and stimulate creativity. They frequently act as a catalyst, stimulating new ideas in others. It is amazing how often a silly suggestion leads to an innovative solution.
3) Focus on quantity not quality: Keep each idea short and succinct. Capture as many ideas as you can then narrow the list later.
4) Don't think: You do not need to justify or provide details of your ideas - just blurt them out without thinking. In brainstorming sessions you want to put forward provocative ideas simply to stir the pot. They do not need to be practical.
5) Include outsiders: It helps to have smart people who are not familiar with your industry/situation participate in your brainstorming sessions. They have a different perspective and can make suggestions beyond the limitations of conventional methods and thinking.
Of course all the ideas in the world are useless if you don't implement them. When you have finished brainstorming review your list of ideas, select one or two you want to implement and create an action plan.
Brainstorming is an amazing tool. It can reenergize all areas of your life and lead to tremendous creativity and growth. Develop the habit of brainstorming regularly. You will be delighted with the results!
Andrew Barber-Starkey, Master Certified Coach
Founder and President, ProCoach Success System
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Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.
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