How to use brainstorming to solve problems

Have you heard the term “brainstorming”?

Now, the word brainstorm doesn’t really mean that you have a storm in your brain.

Brainstorming is a technique that was invented about seventy years ago to help people think more creatively when they needed to solve problems.

Brainstorming is used in various ways by many different organizations to try to find a variety of different types of new solutions to existing problems. Brainstorming techniques are used by many different types of organizations, from large corporations to small groups of neighbors and even families.

The types of problems people brainstorm for can range from how to get humans to other planets, how to be more profitable, or how to enjoy life more.

The essence of brainstorming is that a group of people come together to come up with ideas to solve a particular problem. As they create and write their ideas, no one in the group can criticize or judge the concepts that occur to them.

Even if you think of yourself as a person who is not particularly creative, brainstorming can help you find innovative ways of thinking that may not have occurred to you before.

Group size matters. It is best to have no more than ten people involved, but there should be more than three. One person should be the leader and another should take notes on the ideas generated. It’s a good idea to involve a few people who have used brainstorming before, because you can get better the more often you do it.

Before you start, it is very important to clearly define the problem you are trying to solve. For example, a company may want to exchange ideas such as “how can our company save money next year”. A group of city planners might want to brainstorm “how to reduce crime in our inner-city neighborhoods” or “how we can attract more people to live in our city.” A family might want to brainstorm “what kind of vacation would we all enjoy this summer.”

Before starting to brainstorm, make sure everyone in the group is very clear about the exact nature of the problem they are trying to solve. Remember to have a designated person to maintain order and focus in the group, and have someone write down all the ideas as they are presented.

The leader should try to encourage the participation of everyone present. No matter how far-fetched or outlandish the ideas may be, no one in the group can criticize or judge any idea or person.

When the group seems to lose steam, the leader can suggest new questions to encourage everyone to think about the problem from a different angle.

Here is a list of questions that can help the group see the problem in a new way.

or What if we did this the other way around?

o What happens if we change the order in which we do things?

o What happens if we don’t spend money?

o What if we have a lot of money to spend?

o How else can the same products be used?

o What can be completely removed?

o What can we add?

o What can we combine?

Try random combinations of ideas and see if they trigger new solutions.

Only after all reasonable ideas have been presented does the group move to the next step of evaluating, discussing, and choosing the best ideas.

Rather than go to the evaluation stage right away, it is better to let the group take a break of several hours.

This will help the information to be better assimilated and classified. Remember that the process of generating creative thoughts is quite different from the process of rationally analyzing them. These two processes use the brain in very different ways.

If possible, schedule the analytic sessions to take place the day after the brainstorming sessions. Very often, the dream process will help a person see solutions from a new perspective. During sleep, our brain classifies the thoughts, impulses and data of the day and consolidates the information.

Why does brainstorming work? The technique provides a safe way to imagine and express creative thoughts, encouraging the flow of even more creativity. When the critical faculty of the mind is suspended, our inner creativity can emerge without fear of judgment or ridicule. The rational part of the brain wants to analyze and classify as soon as it finds a new idea. You start to think, “Is this idea good or bad? Will it work or not? What will other people think of my ideas? What will they think of me?”

Although both the analytical and creative components of your mind are important, your brain cannot perform both activities effectively at the same time. Focus on one of these tasks first, then do the other. When you need to get creative, send your inner critic for a ride.

For more ways to brainstorm effectively, just type the word “brainstorm” into your favorite search engine.

You can also use other variations of the word, such as “how to brainstorm effectively” or “improve your brainstorming.”

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