The ability to generate ideas is the greatest gift we as humans possess. It’s what keeps the world moving forward. Without ideas there is no progress, there is no us.
In today’s modern world, every business depends on new ideas -- whether they are about external ideas like out-of-this-world-product innovation, or internal change like efficient team cooperation, employee engagement or more effective customer communication.
Brainstorming is the most widely used instrument for developing these ideas. Therefore, the topic of how to do it better is essential for the success of your organization. Brainstorming is just like any other process, so there’s always room for improvement.
Many studies and articles explain how to be successful at brainstorming, what steps are necessary for group brainstorming and so on. But here is the truth: Creative generation of ideas requires structure and proven techniques. Google, the authority on innovation, has narrowed a framework down to three basic principles, explained here by Veronique Lafargue, the global head of content strategy at Google Apps for Work.
So, the next time you're in the midst of a brainstorming session follow their structure, and you'll notice a more focused and productive session. I've been using it, and can speak to the effectiveness of each step.
Become acquainted with the customer
Lafargue's first point is this: What’s wrong right from the start of a brainstorming session is not including the user for whom you’re creating the idea. What's more, understanding your customers’ needs is not enough; you also need to be able to relate to them. Visiting your users and hearing their stories, views and thoughts can help you discover something about them which will be crucial for your ideas.
Personally, I love this concept and employ it during my customer discovery and/or validation phase for new ideas. I've also found it helpful when creating new businesses in general, or when thinking about rolling out a new feature. The way I implement this is by either contacting existing customers/clients through email and or newsletters, or, for new businesses, using Facebook groups.
Apply the 10x notion
Applying the 10x notion means putting in the effort to improve the brainstorming by ten times, Lafargue explains. How can you do that? Well, by encouraging bold ideas! You and your team should not be scared to think big. Firstly, when you discuss the ideas you have all put forward, it’s utterly essential that you do not just discard notions. This doesn’t mean brainstorming without constructive criticism, but rather not rejecting an idea right away.
Instead, make contributions as improvements: “It might work better if…” By pitching this in, you will give the incentive to generate other ideas. Then ask provocative questions to change the output of the group: “What if we fused those two ideas?”
The 10x notion also means going a step further than just the creation of a superb idea. Many successful companies that apply 10x thinking also illustrate the idea. Seeing the concept in pictures helps a lot to avoid misinterpretations. Another great way to enhance the creative process is to write press releases that describe the vision. This process contributes in reframing the position and shows you how others would respond to it.
10x has been a way I've lived since hearing about it long ago through Google. I love to figure out how to 10x everything. For example, I've applied the 10x theory in one of my side projects that helps to reduce recidivism and unemployment, two major issues crippling the American economy. I started the project by trying to figure out how to create a job platform to help people get jobs. By using 10x thinking I was able to expand the idea into something much larger. Now, the platform is designed to get ex-felons jobs, which betters the economy through decreased unemployment and reduces the recidivism rate. Thinking big helps to push all mental boundaries, and can transform a simple idea into a grand idea.
Create a prototype
Lafargue finishes by saying right after choosing the finest idea(s), it’s best to make a prototype. And it’s not supposed to be perfect; the aim is for you to be able to test the idea and see if it could work. Having turned it into an actual manifestation helps you assess if it’s worth selling to your customers or implementing in your company. You will also be able to recognize the plan's flaws, and you will have space to improve it. This process can also spark additional suggestions for details.
I'm all about creating an "MVP" (Minimum Viable Product) to show my target audience visually what the idea is going to be, how it will work, function, etc. This should be a quick and easy prototype that doesn't take too much time to develop. It can be as easy as using a landing page, a demo in keynote, or even a drawing on a piece of paper. Whatever it is, use it while contacting your target audience for feedback.
So... my advice is rather than Googling how to effectively brainstorm, you might as well follow the lead of the company that invented it all. Happy brainstorming!
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