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For your microbusiness to thrive, you need to spend time finding creative solutions, innovating and mapping out future objectives. You need ideas and one of the most effective ways to generate ideas is through brainstorming. A brainstorming session can be incredibly effective when approached correctly, and a colossal waste of time when approached incorrectly. Use this guide to create an effective brainstorming session.
#1: Grab a group
Brainstorming is a group activity. Thinking in completely different ways from each other turns out to be incredibly beneficial, because of how our brains make different associations. When one person throws out ideas to be noted, they often trigger ideas in the others present that are completely at odds with the original idea, yet may be easier to take action on.
In this way a sort of free association happens, where radically different ideas take shape. Even ideas that are suggested as a joke can contain the seeds of realistic ideas when a different team member applies their own insight to it.
Hear me on this: You cannot effectively brainstorm by yourself. Sure, you can come up with a list of ideas that may work, but that is not brainstorming. You are limited by your perspective and your understanding of the problem. Grab your mastermind group, accountability partners or other microbusiness owners and tap into their brain power.
#2: Peace out, common sense
When it comes to effective brainstorming, throw common sense out the window and forget it ever existed. It is not invited to this party!
Common sense is the enemy of idea generation. People start second-guessing themselves and trying to figure out if their idea will work. They feel they shouldn’t suggest it and so they force their minds to come up with something else, or worse, stay silent. Or, someone presents an idea and another person begins analyzing why it won’t work.
The end result is the same: no ideas. Brainstorming is all about coming up with as many ideas as possible, whether they appear to be feasible or not.
#3: Question Assumptions
Every single day, you’re in the weeds of your microbusiness. It’s easy to get into a deadly pattern of “I always do to it this way, because that’s the way it’s always been done.” That circular logic is deadly to brainstorming.
During an effective brainstorming session, you want to dig deep into the assumptions and facts related to the subject at hand. Question if it’s an accurate assumption by asking “what if” and taking an opposing viewpoint of what you assume to be true.
Let’s say you are brainstorming how to launch a new product. Some of your assumptions may be: advertising is too expensive; your existing customers don’t have the money to make another purchase; you need at least a month to start building excitement for the product; and so on. Just because you have assumed it is true doesn’t mean it is true, you feel me?
#4: Time Limits Matter
Without a time limit, people tend to wait for the Mysterious Idea Muse to appear out of thin air, waving her magic wand and *poof* presenting all the great ideas.
Bad news, friend. She shares her powers with the Laundry Fairy and I’ve got her busy for the next 400 years.
Determine at the beginning how long the session will last. Aim to keep it short, 30 minutes or less, and let everyone know how much time is available. By knowing there is a deadline looming, people are more willing to blurt their ideas out.
#5: Silence is golden!
Start by presenting the problem or issue to be brainstormed, then be silent and walk away from the whiteboard. A blank whiteboard, or sheet of paper, is as uncomfortable as a silent group of people. Someone will be compelled to kick the brainstorming off, if for no other reason than ending the silence and start filling the whiteboard.
#6: Organize and take action
Ideas generated through the brainstorming session should be noted and organized after the meeting. Having a bunch of ideas is worthless if you don’t capture them and take action on them. Organize your ideas through a mindmap or as a list with the most actionable at the top and the least actionable at the bottom. Actionable ideas become task lists and then divided into subtasks until what began as merely a concept becomes a concrete action plan.
Your success depends on your ability to think creatively and be willing to look at challenges from multiple angles. An effective brainstorming session can help you do just that.
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