Brainstorm Like a Boss

Last week we talked about how employers can get some better brainstorming out of their employees. It's their job to make sure they're motivating employees to think differently and bring it all to the table, but does that mean you're off the hook?



You should be the one who wants to bring the best ideas to your team, so do a little reflecting on your brainstorming strategy. If it's not working, it could be better. Honestly, even if it's working, it could still be better.

Here are some places to start.

1) Question-storm

It's easy to pressure yourself to jump to a solution, a "final" idea, the answer to all of your problems. But rather than pushing your brainstorm to a "product," embrace the process. Kick start your brain by getting it warmed up. Instead of working on a list of solutions, work on a list of questions. Every question you could possibly imagine related to what you're brainstorming. Once you hit a wall, push past it and come up with more questions.

You know how sometimes when you're stuck on a problem, the solution comes to you while you're showering, or driving to work, or doing some other unrelated task? The point of avoiding the "solutions" right off the bat is to keep your brain from strolling down the usual, worn down path, and instead spreading out your thoughts, making new connections.

2) Figure out what works best for you.

No boss is going to be able to decipher what it means if you're silent during a brainstorming session. You could be deep in thought or contemplating that movie you saw over the weekend. Evaluate the success of these sessions afterwards – are you an effective brainstormer in a group, or do you need some time to yourself.

Chances are you need a little time to let the ideas simmer. We've all been gung-ho about an idea and then later wish we'd given it more serious thought, so why not spend some time up front evaluating your ideas?

Tell your boss what works for you, and you'll find they're happy to make their team as effective as possible at brainstorming. Who knows, maybe it'll help out other, less self-aware coworkers, at the same time.

3) Walk It Off

Are you noticing a theme? The key to a successful brainstorm is to give people (and brains) some time to themselves after being bombarded with other people's ideas.

After a regular session, go out on a solo walk for half an hour. Walking gets your blood pumping just enough for your brain to get a little oxygen but without exhausting yourself. Plus, the movement of walking is involuntary enough that you don't have to pay attention, but still keeps the main part of your brain occupied so the rest of it can wander.

How do these suggestions all sound to you? Give one a try!