Basic Brainstorming Tools
There are brainstorming helpers that you can buy, including
some nifty software for helping you to generate ideas. This page
is more about the techniques and resources that you can use for
free, starting today. The tools here are a little less technological,
but just as useful.
Basic Problem Solving Techniques
To brainstorm as a group (the usual definition and method)
can be a great way to come up with new ideas. Just be sure to
follow the basics (free-flow of ideas, no insulting or judgment,
etc.) To get the most out of the group, however, introduce them
to some of the best brainstorming tools: basic problem solving
techniques. Here are some to get you started.
Challenge all the assumptions that are a part of the problem/opportunity,
including the most fundamental ones. If you were looking for
a new seating design for restaurants, you begin to ask things
like, "Are chair legs necessary?" If the seats were
extended from the wall, table, or ceiling, it would be easier
to clean under them. Are chairs really necessary? Has a stand-up
cafe been tried?
Break Problems Down
This is the way the practice of "Kaizen" brought
such quality and efficiency to Japanese industry. Most large
problems are really a bunch of smaller problems. Sometimes it
is less overwhelming to start with the small parts first. Kaizen
is a system of continually innovating and improving in small
ways. It can add up to big results. List all the components of
a question or problem, and start working on those.
Re-Define the Problem
Write down what you are trying to accomplish. Then find another
way to express it and write that down. Continue until you have
at least several definitions. Work with each for a while, writing
down all the possible solutions and any ideas that come to mind.
Pretend you're very rich, very poor, from another country
or another planet. How would you see the problem from this new
perspective. Einstein imagined riding on a beam of light to come
up with his theory of relativity, so this technique has
been known to work.
Try any techniques that you think might help, and note which
ones produce the most innovative and useful ideas with your group.
If you have a fairly open-minded group, there are other, more
fun methods, such as "random presentation," "assume
the absurd," and the "what if" word list. For
more on these brainstorming, visit the page "Problem