THE father of modern business management, Peter Drucker, once said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
In the highly competitive marketplace, companies will have to constantly look for the best ideas to reduce costs, increase their product offerings and meet the customer’s ever-changing demands.
Evidently, the team that is able to brainstorm better and harness creativity within its organisation will become more effective and successful than the rest. Therefore, getting the right brainstorming techniques for the company is just as critical as hiring the right individual to lead the company.
Alex Osborn, the originator of the term “brainstorm”, came up with four general rules he described in his bestselling book, Applied Imagination. In order to brainstorm better, Osborn said groups would have to focus on quantity, withhold criticism, welcome unusual ideas, and combine and improve ideas.
Throughout my corporate training experience in the areas of creativity and mind mapping, I have introduced a new brainstorming technique which has incorporated all of Osborn’s rules. Using this brain-based technique, organisations can achieve 10 times the amount of ideas generated in half the time they normally use.
Known as the IDEAS Brainstorm model, it follows the five simple steps illustrated below. The ideal group size to conduct the IDEAS Brainstorm model consists of five people.
Step 1: Individual thinking (7 minutes)
The first stage requires each member to quieten his mind and focus on the topic to be brainstormed. Members do not engage in verbal communication or discuss ideas with one another — this is to withhold any criticism that may cancel ideas out. Using the Mind Map format, every member will generate ideas quickly by writing the keywords on each branch — a brain-friendly process known as idea blooming.
Step 2: Deposit ideas (1 minute per member or 5 minutes’ total duration for the group)
With their Mind Maps drawn, members will take their turn and run through their ideas within a specific time. At this stage, ideas are being deposited with the group because there should not be any elaboration or clarification done.
Due to the Mind Map’s connecting branches, the others can start to connect the ideas deposited onto their own Mind Maps — focusing on quantity and creating more new ideas.
Step 3: Elaborate on ideas (10 minutes)
Everyone can now discuss the list of ideas openly and elaborate further. The aim is to welcome all types of ideas, even if they may be unusual or unpractical.
These can be “seed” ideas that can combine with the other ideas to form a better and practical solution. As a group, they will pick the top three potentially good ideas which will then be developed into feasible solutions.
A feasible solution here refers to something which will improve the current situation using the least cost and implemented in the shortest possible time.
Step 4: Apply to context (15 minutes)
The group will focus on applying the selected ideas in the brainstorming context, which is to address the “how” question.
For example, if the brainstorm context is to increase sales for the company and the selected idea is to go online, the group will then describe how to set up the various online channels to promote sales such as having an online catalogue, e-payment, social media or search engine advertising.
The aim is to go deeper into developing the solution and substantiate it with clear benefits. At this stage, the group will illustrate its recommended solutions by drawing the Mind Map on a larger piece of flipchart paper.
Step 5: Showcase the solution (3 minutes)
Depending on the required output, the group can showcase the recommended solution to management for approval. The presentation is done using the group’s Mind Map which is visual and concise in its branch-like associations.
The Mind Map also serves as good documentation for future review, because it can capture all the other ideas generated and describe the final solution proposed.
Using the IDEAS Brainstorm technique, organisations can brainstorm much faster and expect a huge jump in the ideas generated. With the quantity of ideas multiplied, it increases the chance of finding a winning idea which can change the future of the organisation.
Most importantly, no ideas are left out and everyone gets to be involved in the creative brainstorming process. Steve Jobs changed the future of Apple by creating the iPhone. You too can change your future by creating it.
Article by Eric Cheong, a Workforce Development Agency-certified trainer and ThinkBuzan Instructor in Buzan Asia. He is responsible for developing new business and partnerships in the region and has successfully expanded the company’s footprint in Guangzhou, Malaysia and Hong Kong.