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How to Use Brainstorming to Solve ProblemsHave you heard the term "brainstorming"?
Now, the word brainstorming doesn't really mean you have a storm in your brain.
Brainstorming is a technique that was invented about seventy years ago to help people think more creatively when they needed to solve problems.
Brainstorming is used in a variety of ways by many different organizations to try come up with a variety of different types of new solutions to existing problems. Brainstorming techniques are used by many different sorts of organizations, from large corporations to tiny neighborhood groups, and even families.
The types of problems that people use brainstorming for can range from how to get humans to other planets, to how to be more profitable, or how to have more enjoyment in life.
The essence of brainstorming is that a group of people meets to come up with ideas to solve a particular problem. While they create and write down their ideas, no one in the group is allowed to criticize or judge the concepts they come up with.
Even if you think of yourself as a person who is not particularly creative, brainstorming can help you find innovative ways of thinking that might not have occurred to you before.
The size of the group matters. It's best not to have more than ten people involved, but there should be more than three. One person should be the leader, and one person should take down notes about the ideas generated. It's a good idea to involve some people who have used brainstorming before, because you can get better at it the more often you do it.
Before you start, it's very important to clearly define the problem you are trying to solve. For example, a business might want to brainstorm ideas such as "how can our business save money in the coming year". A group of city planners might want to brainstorm ideas about "how do we cut down on crime in our inner city neighborhoods" or "how can we attract more people to live in our city". A family might want to brainstorm "what sort of vacation would we all enjoy this summer".
Before you start brainstorming, make certain that everyone in the group is very clear on the exact nature of the problem they are trying to solve. Remember to have one person designated to keep order and focus in the group, and have someone write down all ideas as they are presented.
The leader should try to encourage the participation of everyone present. No matter how wild or how ordinary the ideas might be, no one in the group is allowed to criticize or judge any idea or person.
When the group seems to run out of steam, the leader can suggest new questions to encourage everyone to think about the problem from a different angle.
Here's a list of questions that can help the group look at the problem in a new way:
Try random combinations of ideas, and see if they trigger new solutions.
Only after all reasonable ideas have been presented does the group move on to the next step of evaluating, discussing, and choosing the best ideas.
Instead of moving into the evaluation stage immediately, it's best to let the group take a break of several hours.
This will help the information to sink in and get sorted better. Remember that the process of generating creative thoughts is quite different from the process of analyzing them rationally. These two processes use the brain in very different ways.
If at all possible, schedule the analytical sessions to take place the day after the idea generating sessions. Very often, the process of sleep will help a person see solutions in a new light. During sleep our brains sort through the thoughts, impulses, and data of the day, and consolidate information.
Why does brainstorming work? The technique provides a safe way to imagine and express creative thoughts, which encourages the flow of even more creativity. When the critical faculty of the mind is suspended, our inner creativity can surface without fear of judgment or ridicule. The rational part of the brain wants to analyze and classify as soon as it comes across any new idea. It starts to think, "Is this idea good or bad? Will it work or not? What will other people think of my ideas? What will they think of me?"
Although both the analytical and the creative components of your mind are important, your brain cannot do both activities effectively at the same time. Concentrate on one of these tasks first, and then do the other. When you need to be creative, send your inner critic out for a walk.
If you would like to know more ways to use brainstorming effectively, simply type in the word "brainstorming" into your favorite search engine.
You can also use other variations of the word, such as "how to brainstorm effectively" or "improve your brainstorming."
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