How to uncover brilliant ideas when brainstorming

Coming up with smart, fresh new ideas or marketing campaigns isn’t easy. And when your job requires churning them out on a daily basis, it isn’t hard to hit a mental wall. And while brainstorming is essential to your success, learning how to uncover brilliant ideas is a tough skill to master.

As you probably know by experience, some brainstorming sessions are more productive than others. Creativity doesn’t grow on trees, that’s why good ideas must be consciously cultivated.

The best way to get the creative juices flowing isn’t always by sitting your team around a conference table and asking them to shout out ideas as they come to them. Some common brainstorming problems include people joining in without being invited, and work cultures that make people feel uncomfortable expressing ideas to the group.

If you’ve ever been to a brainstorming session where you left feeling like your team didn’t accomplish anything useful, the following infographic by Fundera might help. It lists the best practices for brainstorming to help companies consistently generate top notch ideas, while avoiding common brainstorming pitfalls.

An advertiser in the 1940s, Alex F. Osborn coined the term “brainstorm.” He also developed four success pillars to facilitate successful brainstorming. And these elements, when coupled with other brainstorming wisdom, create a foundation for uncovering brilliant ideas. Check out the infographic below to learn more about common pitfalls and the four layers to generating better ideas:

Infographic: Digging deeper — Uncovering brilliant ideas when brainstorming

Digging deeper: Uncovering brilliant ideas when brainstorming

“It’s easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.” —Alex F. Osborn

Common pitfalls

  • Groups often develop ideas, but have trouble evaluating them
  • One loud voice can dominate the room and stifle creativity
  • The freeloader effect keeps people from actively contributing
  • Groupthink prevents individuals from going against the status quo

The four layers of brainstorming

Go for quantity

  • Strive to generate 100 ideas as a group within an hour
  • Individual brainstorming can lead to greater idea generation, so encourage participants to spend time thinking alone
  • Keep a running list of inspiration as ideas come to you

Withhold criticism

  • Look for opportunities to improve an existing idea instead of being critical
  • Build upon half-baked ideas by using “and” instead of “but”
  • Evaluate strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) to each idea

Welcome wild ideas

  • Be curious. Having a variety of personal interests leads to greater creativity at work
  • Suspend your disbelief during brainstorming. There’s no such thing as a bad idea
  • Remember that creativity happens in small steps and great ideas rarely come out of thin air

Combine and improve ideas

  • Cluster similar ideas together and look for common themes
  • Consider the impact of each idea and the amount of effort required to execute it
  • Adapt, enlarge, shrink, and combine ideas as needed

If these tips to uncovering brilliant ideas were helpful, also check out 10 tips for effective meetings. Or click here if you want to know what to do when a client rejects your design.