Brainstorming: A valuable technique for getting ideas

A man busy in deep thinking

Brainstorming is a skill used in groups, where members of the group discuss or present creative ideas and solutions. The word ‘brain storming’ is coined by Alex F. Osborn. It is a technique of spontaneous contributions of members and it involves actively using brain to do creative thinking. The members of the group are encouraged to suggest and share as many creative ideas as possible and engage in thoughtful conversations by making use of diverse knowledge of their own. Brainstorming is a problem solving method as the ideas and solutions are generated which helps in solving problems and provide some valuable insights. It can also be called as ‘thought shower’ or ‘idea session’ where the thoughts are showered by the group members to generate ideas. Brainstorming techniques are being practiced for 70 years and is still used by students to solve a multiple number of problems.

Process of brainstorming

  1. Identify the problem: This is the first step of brainstorming in which people identify and make themselves clear about the problem they particularly need to find solutions for. Be specific and provide details of the problem for the efficient solution findings. No matter how small or big a problem is or seems to be, the problem solver needs to believe that every problem has a solution or two.
  2. Keep tools handy and jot down the ideas: write down the problem on paper or the screen from where it could be read and then start writing all the possible solutions that comes up in mind while using problem-solving approach. Make use of mind maps or brain writing. Also, there are variety of tools available online that could help with creative thinking and generating ideas.
  3. Narrow the list of ideas: Out of all the ideas being written on paper or screen, choose and try out the best ideas or solution that seems to be ideal and efficient to solve particular problem. At least shortlist two or three ideas to be tried to solve the problem out of the list. Ask questions to be sure, like: ‘can these ideas be implemented by making use of current tools in hand?’ Or ‘Is this idea logical or possible to put into action in order to be able to solve problem?’
  4. Present the ideas: Once the possibly required ideas have been shortlisted, show them to the superior authority or the leader of the group to make sure it’s all right and can be implemented successfully. And finally, once approved, begin problem solving by Applying ideas as solutions to the problem.

Also Read: The Psychological Concept behind Creativity

Practicing brain storming by various fun techniques:

1) Embracing the versatility/multiple uses of a thing or an object:

It includes DIY projects or best out of waste projects, being taught in school, where new creative items are created from already used materials or the waste products that is not needed anymore. For example: The sole purpose of a CD is watching movies or listening to songs by putting it in CD player, however in brainstorming techniques, we think of multiple ways a CD can be used other than watching movies or listening songs, like it can be used as a frizbee to play by throwing it in the air or for making a pen holder by stacking various CD’s one above another. CD’s can also be beautifully placed together to make a wall hanging. This way the individual engages in looking at things from different perspectives.

2) Ask unique mindfully challenging questions:

This technique is also called as deserted island technique. In this brainstorming technique, people are asked what three things they are most likely to carry when asked to accompany to a deserted island or what three things they would need to survive or pass their boredom in deserted island. Each person will give their own unique answers and reasons to this question. Some would say books, headphones and others may say food and clothes. These kinds of varied answers also let us know the preferences or liking of individuals.

3) Reverse the answer:

Present a problem in front of group members and let them answer with worst solutions possible or the one exact opposite of what came in their mind first i.e. the actual solutions. This brain storming technique helps individual think creatively and out of the box answers. It also indicate to what extent human mind could think of opposite situations. It’s a great technique to activate the brain and forcing it to think of not so ordinary solutions to the problem in hand.

Also Read: Are Creative People Prone to Suffer from Mental Disorders?

4) Finding relations between the unrelated ones:

In this brainstorming technique, the group members are to be given few sets of words which they have to connect with each other or find the links in between. The activity can also be initiated by picking up one random word and then continuing the chain of words from there by relating different unrelated words.

5) Figure storming or hack the person’s mind:

In this brainstorming technique, members of the group puts light upon what or how others (including famous personalities) would think about solving a particular problem or what strategies they would have adopted to solve various problems. This technique allows individuals who are hesitant to express their thoughts due to fear of judgments from other group members to freely express their own ideas.

Benefits of brain storming activities include

1) Safe ground for introverts:

Introverted people are known to have many thoughts and creative ideas in their minds. They spend most of their time thinking and observing. Brainstorming techniques give them an opportunity to lead, by being able to express themselves and their thoughts and ideas in front of others.

2) Collaborative skills:

Brain storming activities conducted in group sessions helps develop skills of collaboration and healthy group discussion or debate by putting up ideas and thoughts in front of group members and collaborating with each other to solve problems by finding efficient solutions.

3) Categorizing individuals:

Educators or the one asking ideas from each individual, could analyse and put them under similar labels based on the similarities in individual’s thinking process and ideas.

4) Make individual expertise in speaking as well as listening:

Brain storming activities or techniques generally involves speaking of ones thoughts and creative ideas and listening to others creative ideas and thoughts as well. It helps the individual pay attention to what others are saying, enabling them in being a good listener and brain storming provides opportunities to speak up about their own thoughts and ideas, which makes them expressive and a great speaker.

Shortcomings of brainstorming

1) Extroverts being Extroverts:

Generally, extroverts are more active and eager to participate in group discussions or solve problems given to the whole group. This may leads to unbalanced situation or conversations during group discussions as in front of Extroverted people, Introverts feel uncomfortable and thereby unable to express their creative problem solving solutions and thoughts.

Also Read: Find the Difference between Strategic Planning and Strategic Thinking

2) Talking etiquettes:

There are certain factors that hinders brainstorming in the group like concerns regarding people talking over one another in group, cutting someone else’s thoughts in between to be able to express or discuss ones own thoughts and commenting on another people’s opinions.

3) Physically distant members of the group:

Engaging in the brain storming techniques by being present away from the group, like through video conferencing or phone calls, may disrupts the continuous flow of thoughts by the members and it also impacts the group discussions.

4) Awkward silences in between the conversations:

Sometimes the group members don’t prepare for the brainstorming sessions, it may lead to awkward silences which shows the unpreparedness or shortage of ideas for the moment. Bridging the awkward silence can be achieved by knowing the topic of conversations beforehand or by practicing active thinking and problem-solving skills regularly. It helps in activating the brain and smooth flow of thoughts and ideas from the brain. You can play numerous brainstorming games on boards and even online. This may include sudoku, chess, checkers, crosswords and puzzles, brain teaser, bingo, word association, scrabble etc.

Remember that everyone has a brain storming skill that one needs to embrace by practicing it often and keeping the mind open for creative ideas and passionate thoughts to dive in which would help in problem solving.

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