For the Imaginative Entrepreneur

Businessmen seem to have brainstorming all wrong. It has become a sort of catch-all phrase for thinking about a solution. But true brainstorming is much more than that. It is about figuring out the things that aren’t so obvious. It involves thinking of a solution that is imaginative, original, progressive and beneficial for all parties involved.

When brainstorming, it is important that the participants look beyond the obvious. This means that the exercise is not a half an hour session meant to be conducted at the end of weekly staff meeting. What usually happens is that people sit around pondering on a problem for a few minutes and the first solution to present itself is usually considered the best one while the brainstorming session is declared a resounding success.

Entrepreneurs are busy folk without a lot of time on hand to just sit and think. It seems to slow them down and waste their time. But brainstorming is an ongoing process that looks beyond the cliché and the boring to find innovation in ideas. It is important to understand that spending a couple of extra hours during the brainstorming session to do it right will save them plenty of time later on. Brainstorming sessions have to be slow and deliberate. Participants should fully explore all options, even the most outrageous ones and continue thinking for a while even when they think they have found the perfect solution. Any great businessman can testify that well-thought out decisions and solutions are the ultimate time and money savers.

Osborn's Method- What Brainstorming Is All About!

Brainstorming was introduced by Alex Osborn. He was an advertising executive in the 1930’s. According to him, two things are absolutely necessary to do justice to a brainstorming session.

First of all, don’t judge! So let the ideas flow and let the participants generate ideas that may sound outrageous at first. You never know, they may just come up with something so magnificent that it works great! Secondly, reach for quantity. Don’t aim for a number; instead get the participants to come up with as many ideas as possible. This is problem solving with the old adage that quantity breeds quality. So the higher the number of ideas generated, the better chances you will have of coming up with a drastic yet efficient solution.

Osborn was a huge proponent of reducing social inhibitions during brainstorming sessions. It is important to stimulate the group members and let them be expressive of their ideas without paying any heed to their status or position in the office. Do not criticize anyone because there is no such thing as a ridiculous idea during brainstorming. This will help participants feel free to share themselves with everyone; in fact, welcome any unusual ideas that people may have. This will encourage out of the box thinking and bring in new perspectives and ideas. This is the best way to get better solutions. During the critical stage of brainstorming (when you are reviewing all the suggestion put forth), you can learn to combine ideas to ensure maximum value to your company.

Better Brainstorming Tips

When encountered with an unsolvable problem, it is best to start of the thinking session all by yourself. Flying solo means pondering on all the aspects of the issue at hand and then coming up with a list of probable solutions. But don’t tell anyone yet.

Bring in your team together for a brainstorming session and then let everyone go their way so the ideas can marinate over time and get better while everyone is thinking about them. Give it a week or so before another meeting to get everyone’s input and critical thinking on the solutions at hand.

It is even better to let the participants know in advance of the topic at hand. This way they can conduct research of their own so they are better equipped at the initial meeting. Make sure that the brainstorming session doesn’t have more than 10 people and all of them should be from diverse backgrounds. The “cognitive diversity” is important for the group to come up with wide-ranging ideas. If everyone in the group is an accountant, they won’t have a lot of input on anything other than the finances of your problem. So try to have a representation from each department that may be involved with the issue at hand.

For the best results, ask people to do advance work on their own and bring those ideas to a brainstorming session. “You benefit from a kind of synergy where one person might have a good idea about one component but be clueless about the rest of the system”, Sawyer says, “and another person can be inspired by that and have an idea about how those components will work together.” Just beware of ‘topic fixation’, the phenomenon of a group getting stuck on one idea at the cost of generating others.

Hallway encounters shouldn’t be discounted as some great ‘aha!’ moments are to be had during these casual run-ins at the office. As the boss, make sure that the atmosphere at your company is conducive to collaboration and of-the cuff thinking. After all, this is why start-ups become successful.

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