Contrary to popular belief, great ideas don’t just strike suddenly; our brains are often making connections and associations behind the scenes for hours, days, or maybe even weeks before a truly breakthrough idea finally emerges from the duds. In order for that “a-ha!” moment to happen, creativity needs space to be carefully and patiently cultivated (in an ideal world). However, in light of today’s fast-paced brainstorming sessions and tight creative deadlines, we recognize that time is not always in abundance. When ideation teams are in a crunch and have no choice but to create on demand, there are a few smart and scrappy ways to help fire up those synapses and expedite the creative process.
Flip the problem. Sometimes, it’s easier to gain better creative perspective by solving for what you don’t want. For example, when generating ideas for a great running shoe, begin by brainstorming what a customer wouldn’t want in a running shoe. (For starters, it probably wouldn’t be too comfortable or practical to run in a clunky shoe with no treads.) Then, think about the opposite of those undesirable attributes. (Instead of a clunky shoe, a runner would probably want something sleek and streamlined; instead of a treadless sole, he or she would probably want some sturdy rubber grips to help gain traction with the ground.) By looking at the problem with a different lens, creative solutions are given more room to reveal themselves.
Build boundaries. Although it might seem counterintuitive, one of the easiest ways to foster creativity is to assign parameters for your brainstorming sessions. When faced with limitless options, it can be difficult to focus on and build out a winning concept, which is why it can feel so much easier to get the creative energy flowing when faced with a specific writing prompt vs. staring at a blank page with endless possibilities. Create some light boundaries (i.e. “new seasonal scents” vs. the more generic “new scents”) to help facilitate more productive brainstorming.
Use analogs. We’ve talked about using analogs many times, and for good reason: they really work. We believe in gathering as many external references as possible to shape bolder, bigger thinking in a faster time frame–no major re-invention of the wheel necessary.
Re-frame “can’t”. It’s easy enough to walk away from an idea if there is a big limiting factor up against it (high cost, lack of resources, etc). But instead of immediately dismissing these “unrealistic” ideas, why not work to find out what needs to be true in order to make it happen? We love Inc.’s suggestion to turn “can’t” into “can if”. An impossible idea might turn out to be brilliant with the help of some creative work-arounds.
Harness the power of your team. Your team is probably a multi-faceted group with different viewpoints from yours–and that’s a good thing. Teams who build truly breakthrough ideas do so by taking advantage of the multitude of perspectives offered by each individual team member. In your brainstorming sessions, include individuals from as many different backgrounds and experience levels as possible to boost not just quantity, but quality and depth of your ideas.
The Garage Group helps corporate teams to innovate and grow like startups with approaches that enable even the self-proclaimed non-creatives to generate and build big ideas.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: waferboard