I’m just going to come right out and say it: thinking up ideas is really hard. It’s like a minor miracle—you have to create something from nothing—and it takes time and effort to pull it off. But pull it off we must! Blogs don’t update themselves, and ideas don’t just grow on trees. But sometimes you really did learn exactly what you need to know in kindergarten: it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned brainstorm. Teaming up with some fellow creatives and putting your heads together is a great way to come up with new ideas that you’re actually excited about. (My personal tried-and-true method, whining and doodling until I think of something, isn’t exactly sustainable.) Here’s how to make sure your brainstorm rains cats and dogs.
Go For Quantity
When you’re brainstorming, don’t be afraid to throw everything you have out into the open. There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm; turn off your inner critic and just let loose. Now isn’t the time to weed out the stuff that won’t work (that step will come later), so suspend judgment. Any not-so-good ideas that you write down will only help nourish your creative spirit and encourage improvements on those ideas. When you’re brainstorming, it’s all good.
If you’re having trouble staying positive, try changing your setting. If you can, take your team out for the afternoon and swap ideas over drinks. Even just getting outdoors can help recharge your creative energy. Just make sure you bring some paper so you can get everything in writing before all those ideas fade from memory!
Unplug and Get Pumped Up
A change of scenery is a great way to get your creative juices flowing, but it isn’t the only way. If you’re like me, you spend most of your waking life on the computer, whether you’re hard at work (definitely not whining and doodling) or just surfing the Internet on your own time. When it comes time to brainstorm, get ready to unplug. Turn off your computer! Work on paper, or write your ideas on a whiteboard. Stand up and walk around, even if you just take a lap around the halls. Changing the way you work will help change the way you think, breaking you out of just about any rut you fall into.
Sitting at a desk all day is bound to make a person sleepy, but now is no time to let your energy dip. When you’re getting ready to do some mental aerobics, grab your caffeine of choice (I like tea, Earl Grey, hot, because I am a huge nerd) and fuel up. Though there has been some recent argument that caffeine may actually inhibit creative thinking, the time to let your mind wander while you’re procuring your tea or coffee could be just what the doctor ordered.
You did it! You had a successful team brainstorming session, covered a whiteboard and several sheets of paper in tons of new ideas, and you’re super wired from the coffee you drank to get you there. Well done. The next step? Sleep on it. It seems counter-intuitive (especially since I just urged you to caffeinate just moments ago), but coming back to your ideas with a clear mind and fresh eyes will help you see things you might otherwise have missed. If you jump right in and start sorting the good ideas from the not-so-good ones, you’ll still be wrapped up in the energy of the brainstorm and it might lead you to make decisions you’ll question later. (“Why did we decide to run with a fart joke for this post again?”) Put some distance between yourself and the idea generation process. When you come back, what works and what doesn’t will seem plainly obvious, and you’ll be ready to move forward.
The next time you’re tasked with coming up with a great idea, keep these tips in mind. If you aim for quantity, stay positive, caffeinate, and revisit your ideas after a break, your brainstorm will be a resounding success. And if you’re really stuck, feel free to give our Idea Engine a whirl.