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How to Brainstorm and Be Creative

February 14, 2000
You can use brainstorming to develop creative solutions that may seem overwhelming and impossible to solve. Creativity can speed up business developments and can be used to adapt, streamline, reorganize or change the direction of your business.

First step: Basic rules

Here are some basic brainstorming rules that will enable you to be more creative

First, realize that everyone can be creative. You may not believe that you are a creative person, but the difference between a creative person and the rest of us is that the creative person commits to their creativity to overcome limitations imposed by others. They take chances.

Second, forget for the moment that you live in the real world. Avoid judgment of any kind until after you've finished brainstorming. Judgments can constrain and often squash creativity altogether.

Third, be aware of your own defenses. If you are brainstorming by yourself as opposed to within a group, finding a place or activity that you enjoy can sometimes spark your creative thinking. While you are brainstorming, you want to be as relaxed as possible and let go of your defenses.

Lastly, nothing is "bad." Well, that is until you come out of your brainstorming session, judge your idea and squash it.

Next: Breaking it down

There are certain steps to follow when brainstorming. Whether you want to come up with a business plan for a start-up or develop a time-saving strategy within your existing company, it all boils down to solving a problem.

When you brainstorm, remember to break down preconceptions about any limits. The objective is to open your mind and list as many ideas as possible without stifling creativity.

You can even merge two average ideas into one very unique one. Understand that any new ideas we develop can only come from the ideas we already know. Brainstorming encourages our minds to combine ideas into innovative solutions.

1. Define your problem or what you want to accomplish. Be concise.

2. Give yourself a time limit. Start with about 20 to 30 minutes. As you become more experienced, you'll be able to judge the amount of time that works best for you.

3. Start your brainstorming session, thinking of as many ideas as possible. Make sure to write them all down. Don't criticize, evaluate or worry about how you'll even make your ideas work at this point.

4. Once your time is up, select the 5-10 ideas that you liked best.

5. Decide on 5-6 different criteria for judging your ideas. Start the criteria with 'should'. (it should be more profitable, it should gain more attention, it should be more cost effective, etc...)

6. Score your ideas on a scale of 1 to 10 using your criteria. The idea with the highest score will most likely be the best solution to your problem.

Finally, the questions

The quickest and most direct way to stimulate creativity is to ask questions. By provoking answers, questions automatically lead to resolution.

The more questions you ask, the more ideas you'll be able to come up with. When problem-solving, try to see things from a different perspective, like the average Joe walking down the street. He has never heard of your company and may not even know about your product.

Ask yourself questions:

1. Modify: (i.e. How can you modify the product?)

2. Minimize: (i.e. In what ways can you minimize the time of delivery or cost of production?)

3. Substitute: (i.e. Where can you substitute parts or services?)

4. Re-arrange: (i.e. How can you re-arrange the layout or work schedule?)

5. Reverse: (i.e. Which processes or formats can you reverse?)

6. Combine: (i.e. What products or services can you combine?)

7. Put to other uses: (i.e. How can the ideas you use now be put to other uses?)

Get in the habit of brainstorming on a regular basis, and you'll benefit even more. Without a lot of effort, you can train yourself to automatically investigate, question and analyze every business situation, which can result in finding and resolving a conflict before it turns into a major crisis.

This proactive approach can save you a good deal of time and money. As you become more aware of your business operations and the endless possibilities that are available, your flexibility will enable you to adapt to outside influences and quickly make changes when needed.