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HOW TO BRAINSTORM LIKE A PRO

Remember the old expression, “two heads are better than one?” If that is true, how about 3, 4, 10 or 15 heads? While too many cooks can sometimes spoil the broth, having the input of many individuals is usually a wonderful way to craft work that will satisfy and educate many.

Alex Osborn, an advertising executive eager to find a way to increase creativity at his agency, came up with the idea of brainstorming in 1939. Rather than having people working alone or in pairs, he gathered together several employees and created two basic ground rules: do not judge anyone’s suggestions and aim for quantity. He also found that the more relaxed the atmosphere, the more likely people would be to toss out ideas they might have otherwise kept to themselves.

Osborn’s concepts proved so successful that not only his industry, but the working world at large adopted them. Students like yourself can also make use of these strategies when working on projects or other group assignments in your classes.

Quantity Over Quality

That sounds completely counterproductive, but is actually the best way to go when brainstorming. For example, your group may spend thirty minutes coming up with an idea that seems like an effective way to proceed. However, in that same time, another group may have had 20 ideas and boiled them down to four that hold great promise. Therefore, they have generated four times as many in the same period.

No Idea is Too Silly

Well, that’s not entirely true, but as we mentioned above, it is important to create an atmosphere where everyone feels completely free to offer their suggestions.

Sure, you will get some suggestions that are completely unworkable given the time and resources available. However, there is also a very good chance that someone will offer up an idea that they would not have put forth if they felt afraid of ridicule. Some people even became millionaires after announcing concepts that originally sounded silly.

Combining Ideas

Sometimes you will come up with an idea that seems right in many ways, but remains not quite right enough to work. Someone else might have another suggestion in the same area that is also lacking something.

Just like you can rebuild a car using parts from others, you can take two or more ideas and use them to create an even better one. When you think about it, every idea that has prompted revolutionary change was the result of different thoughts merged into one. That form of innovation led to any number of products we take for granted today and can also work when you are brainstorming in class.

Put it on Paper

Another way to ensure that people feel confident about sharing is through the Group Passing Technique. This method has each person in your group writing down an idea on a piece of paper and then passing it to the person beside them. That person adds any additional thoughts that occur to them. The paper moves along to the next person and this continues until it ends up back with the original author.

While not as fast or spontaneous as an informal discussion, this technique remains valuable because it encourages greater elaboration. That leads to more thought out ideas less likely to have elements that would compromise their effectiveness.
Some people are born “idea persons” but we will bet that even they need to share ideas with other people. Great minds may think alike, but they do not always come up with the most useful suggestions on their own.