Brain storming

Brain storming is just a process for identifying solutions to problems and options to pursue. You can brainstorm anything – from what you’re going to have for breakfast to how to solve that complex problem you’ve been sweating over.

Brainstorming is best done with more than one person, so your ideas can bounce of each other and trigger new ideas – a bit like ‘cloud seeding’, where someone else’s idea can be the seed for a downpour of your own ideas.

And of course, the brainstorming as a group means that if one person is having a drought, the ideas can continue to flow. Now we’re done with our climatic references, here are some other pointers for brain storming:

  • Write down everything – you won’t remember all the ideas you come up with, so write them all down.

    The concept of ‘sticky note mapping’ works well here – write down all your ideas on a sticky note [one idea per note] and stick them up on a wall where everyone can see. You can then sort and group the ideas for further analysis.

  • Consider all ideas – no matter how stupid something sounds [so did dental floss when it was first mentioned], it needs to be considered. You never know where a ‘silly idea’ will take you!
  • Ignore personal biases – brain storming is a time for getting ideas out of people’s head. Don’t be tempted to discount someone ideas because you don’t like them or because you don’t think they’re up to the task.
  • If you stall during the brain-storming process, revisit all the ideas written down so far and see if this triggers any new thoughts.
When the brain storming comes to an end, it’s important that each idea is considered for its suitability to the particular problem at hand.

Group similar ideas and discuss them together, cross off ideas that just won’t work [but only after looking into them first] and select a few of the best ideas to develop further. Ideally you only want half a dozen ideas to pursue – too many and you’ll just get bogged down, too few an you may not have enough flexibility.

Of course, one of the best – and simplest – ways to analyse ideas developed during a brain storming session is to use a ‘Pros and Con’s matrix, where you just simply list all the pros (the advantages or good points) and cons (the disadvantages or bad points) with the option.

If you’re comparing options, read through all the pros and cons and make sure you’ve captured them all consistently through all the options. For example, if one option lists “cheap” as a Pro, then make sure all the other options list either cheap or expensive as a pro or con. By cross-checking this way, you’ll have a true representation of which option is better than the others.

A simple Pros and Cons template is provided in the ToolBOX, under the section on “Life Tools”.

Brain Storm

Brainstorm is your personal map to better understanding creative thinking and the brainstorming process. This book will teach you the basics of how to produce many ideas, evaluate each of them, and pick the best one. This book also features in-depth interviews and profiles of a handful of well known people whose brainstorming skills have led them to incredible success.

So "Brain Storm" and Tap into Your Creativity to Generate Awesome Ideas and Remarkable Results.

The Military version of the brain storm - the Appreciation Process

The Military has developed a process for problem solving, called the “Appreciation Process”. It’s called this [rather than the logical ‘Problem Solving’ Process] because it implies that the user ‘appreciates’ all aspects of the problem trying to be solved, before making a decision.

It’s a five step process – but really just a more formal version of brainstorming - described as follows:

Define the problem This is best done using the 5WH method, that is by considering the what, why, where, when, who and how of the problem.

  • What exactly is the problem you’re trying to solve – is there in fact a problem? Write it down in specific terms so that it can be clearly understood.
  • Why is it a problem?
  • Who else is impacted by the problem, or needs to be involved?
  • When do you need to solve this problem? How long have you got?
  • Where is the root of the problem? Or what is the root of the problem?
  • How do you feel about the problem?

Examine the facts What are the factors that influence how you solve this problem – lack of resources, time or money?

The trick with examining the factors is to determine exactly what each one really means to your problem. And you can do this simply by asking the question “So what?” after each factor.

I don’t have any money to go out to dinner. “So what?” So, I need to go to the bank before the dinner date. “So what?” So, I need to leave now! And so on, until there are no more “So whats?”

Brainstorm options Once you have a thorough understanding of all the facts, and what this really means – you can start brain storming options for solving your problem.

Pros and Cons List all the pros (the advantages or good points) and cons (the disadvantages or bad points) with the option, including how you personally feel about each option.

Preferred Option Based on your pros and cons, what is the best option? …and more importantly, what is your next step?

Once you have your preferred option, prepare your step-by-step plan to achieve it – and hop to it!

There is a template for the Appreciation process of in the ToolBOX, under the section on “Life Tools”.

And while we're talking about the military, check out the SMEAC system as a way of documenting the outcomes from your decision making process.

Buzan Mind Map Book

From the ‘inventor’ of the Mind Map – Tony Buzan - this book shows you not only how to do a Mind Map, but how to apply it to different tasks – study, creativity, projects, etc. Using practical examples and a step-by-step approach, you’ll be an expert mind mapper in no time at all.

Harness the power of mind mapping to improve your mind power!

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