Brainstorming & Idea Generation

Ah… idea generation… brainstorming!

The ability to think-up ideas. Ideas may be something old applied in a new way. Or, creating and applying something that has never been done before… that could turn into an innovation.

The official term “brainstorming” was coined by Alex Osborne back in the 1950s. Some adhere to the strict rules outlined by Osborne 60 years ago. We don’t subscribe to that. We feel the term brainstorming applies to any idea generation method. A great brainstorm session combines the right people, the right process, and his held in a place conducive to brainstorming and creative thinking.

Reasons We Brainstorm

As we see it… there are really four key reasons why we brainstorm or want to innovate… to solve, to grow, to think, or to create…

Solve A Problem/Fix Something

This is what is traditionally thought of as Creative Problem Solving (CPS). You’ve identified that you have some sort of problem (or ‘opportunity’ as some prefer to call it), and need to brainstorm some solutions. Perhaps you need to drive sales by x% in Q1? Determine ways to raise money to put a new roof on the church? Find ways to stand apart from your competition? You’d identified something that needs to be addressed (the problem) and need solutions.

Think About: Are you sure you’re solving the right problem, and not simply addressing the symptoms? What are the assumptions? Constraints?

Grow Something

Your franchise has reached a certain size and you want to grow bigger. Your new company has a steady flow of clients – now you want a “brand” – a logo, website, long-term goals, etc. You’ve got something already established and want to make it bigger.
Think About: Where are you now? Where do you want to go? Is this an ultimate goal, or a next step? Are you ready to manage the responsibility associated with the growth? What do you feel you “must keep”, or can growing mean starting over from scratch?

Get Ideas / Fill Your Idea Pipeline

You’re tapped for ideas. You need to come up with a series of new product flavors for the next year. You want to determine your FY’16-17 promotional calendar. Your idea bank is near zero and you need to replenish the account.
Think About: How refined do you need the new ideas to be: sketch ideas or near-final proven concepts?

Create Something New / Try To Innovate

Combine ideas in a way that hasn’t been done before. You want to do something innovative in your business category. Something above and beyond (a) your competition and/or (b) what you have done in the past.
Think About: Do these ideas need to be truly “new” or just new to your category? (You may find a practice in another industry can become your best practice.

Articles: Idea Generation

The Idea Sandbox site is chock-full of articles, tips, and tools about brainstorming and generating ideas. Here are articles…