Brainstorming, 5 steps to get you unstuck and your thoughts organized

I noticed yesterday a lot of posts about the need to get to work, even if you are facing a struggle with getting that “spark of inspiration”. I though I would do a quick blog post on a technique for brainstorming I have used successfully for many years.

Basically, everyone has heard of brainstorming, but not everyone knows there are some specific ways to make it more productive and useful.

I think it will work with any number of different types of questions: -What events should we plan for this summer? -What should I blog about? -What are the biggest issues we need to address?

And I think it will work with any number of participants, from 1 up to as many as 20 or 30 easily.

I normally budget 2 hours for a meeting like this, and occasionally I will do two 1 hour sessions a few days apart. If I break it up into two sessions, I will try to get all the way through step 3 in the first session and send out notes to everyone immediately following the conclusion.

So what is the process? I think I can boil down a successful brainstorming session to several sequential steps.

5 step brainstorming process

  1. Speed Ideas- the idea here is speed and volume.. not points for quality or reasonability. go crazy, quickly.
  2. Sort and Dedupe- here is where process kicks in, organize what you have, and group like things together.
  3. Rank and stack- there are several ways to do this, I normally let everyone vote for their top three, and just count up the votes.
  4. Cut- Look at the top part of the list, and figure out how many you can reasonably implement, or develop into a real action plan. this should be a small number of clearly identified priorities.
  5. Develop further- take your results from the previous step, and flesh it out in good detail, ideally I think this is with all participants.

If you have finished this successfully you should now have a prioritized list of things to do, (and not do) and a clear idea of how you are going to make them real.

have fun, and let me know how it works for you.