Brainstorming is well-known as a favoured technique for generating ideas and finding solutions. But what if you don't enjoy doing it? What if you feel like you're not good at it? Brainstorming is supposed to open up the flow of thoughts, but what if you find it actually has the opposite effect?
What if trying to "force" yourself to brainstorm on the spot does more to shut down the flow of ideas, rather than generating them?
Brainstorming can indeed be useful, but much of its success has to do with how you approach it. As with so many things, customizing your approach to meet your personal needs is key to having a successful brainstorming session. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you brainstorm more easily and effectively.
Tip#1: don't put so much pressure on yourself.
If you think brainstorming means you need to come up with 100 ideas in less than 10 minutes, think again. While some people thrive under this kind of pressure, it doesn't work for everyone. Do yourself a favour and drop the pressure. If the ideas aren't coming at the moment, don't try to force it and don't rush to the conclusion that something is wrong. Simply set things aside and try again later. Instead of trying to force yourself to come up with a certain number of ideas in a set period of time, take the pressure off and let the ideas, whether many or few, flow freely at their own pace.
Tip #2: find your comfort zone.
We often hear that we should step out of our comfort zone. But decades of research have shown that the vast majority of people learn best and perform best when they're in a relaxed state where they feel safe and comfortable. In other words, being in your comfort zone is conducive to thinking calmly, clearly, and creatively. So before you start your brainstorming session, do what you need to do to get comfortable. Make sure you're in a comfortable environment, and try taking a few deep breaths to relax your mind and help you focus.
Tip #3: reflect on the past.
Even if you're trying to brainstorm around a situation you've never dealt with before, you likely have plenty in your past to draw on that can help. By taking some time to reflect on the past, you can make connections and find what's relevant. On the surface, a past situation may appear totally unrelated to what you're currently facing. But dig a little deeper or come at it from a different angle, and you'll likely find useful and relevant information to draw on. For instance, a solution or strategy related to that past situation can offer insight and/or prompt ideas for the current situation.
Tip #4: seek out inspiration.
Do you feel like you're working from a blank slate as you struggle to brainstorm ideas? Make things easier for yourself by seeking out some inspiration. How have other people tackled the same issue? Are you able to get your hands on some relevant information that sheds light on the issue? Brainstorming doesn't mean you can't get help, input, or inspiration from other sources. The information you get may serve as the catalyst to prompt your own fresh ideas.
Tip #5: change things up.
Are you still drawing a complete blank? Try getting out for a walk to refresh your mind. Take a few minutes to have a glass of water or a cup of tea. Do some stretching or exercising to get your blood flowing. Try writing things out; or skip the writing and try simply doodling instead. Shifting gears outwardly fosters an inward shift and leads to a mental reset. This inner mental reset opens the door for fresh ideas to start flowing.
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