Have you ever found yourself in the situation where you need to immediately deliver business ideas or create solutions for a certain task, for instance in your business life? There you go. You know how hard it can be to produce a creative thought right away, at the push of a button.
Of course, there are many creative techniques around, but the one I am describing here is different. Most creative techniques you will read about do not actually involve your actual surroundings, your colleagues or employees but actually depend on you. Being creative by yourself is one solution, but I will show you creativity and a brainstorming approach that depends on your team. I will also explain to you how this method can get much more out of your workforce when using brainstorming instead of a different technique you might have wanted to use for your next brainstorming.
I will explain the method that I also use for my own brainstorming step-by-step, so you just can follow my instructions and hopefully will be successful in your next creative challenge. Here, I will explain how you can bring such a brainstorming session online without using expensive brainstorming tools.
Step 1: Break-down Your Creative Challenge
This step is probably the most important part of your brainstorming, and it actually requires some creativity before you even start to be creative. You will have to slice down your task into several easy to answer “sub-questions.” One sub-question is a question that will produce an answer that can serve you as a small “assembling part” of a possible creative solution or an idea. Let’s make an example here: If you are looking for business ideas for a new beverage product, your sub-questions could be the following:
- What is an original shape for a beverage container?
- In general: What are crazy flavor combinations?
- Imagine [show people a brand logo] if brand were to come up with a new beverage; what would it look like?
- What is a creative way to name a beverage?
- What are smart ways to open and close a container?
Do you see what I did? Imagine participants answering these questions,10 questions are perfect in brainstorming. They would guide them to a number of creative thoughts and inputs that could be combined and merged with each other, leading to original ideas for a beverage product. Ever heard about the term “thinking out-of-the-box?” Well, this question strategy is the perfect way to force your brainstorming participants to think outside of the box.
Step 2: Assemble your Creative Team – Make Sure It’s Diverse
This is also a very important preparation step for your creativity and brainstorming session. Put together a team of 4–10 people who can reserve 45–60 minutes (at most) of their time. Make sure you assemble a team that is quite diverse. Ask the secretaries, the engineers, the office guys, the tech guys, the strategy guys, hell you can even ask your grandma if you want. Diversity is everything!
Step 3: Prepare your Online Brainstorming
The next step involves the preparation of your online brainstorming. Remember the questions you wrote down in step 1. Take them and create a Google form where you insert all of your questions. For each question, only add an online text line for your answers. Now, prepare a short link of your Google form and write a small introduction email. Include the briefing of your creative task and write down the goals of the brainstorming in a brief manner. Also, don’t forget to include a set of criteria, a one to three criteria is fine, of the business ideas you want to develop and meet. Don’t forget to briefly describe the brainstorming process and include the timing each participate has to go through the questions; 20-30 minutes should be enough. Now, paste the Google form link into your introduction email and send the email to your participants.
Step 4: Collect Idea Fragments
Now, you can sit and wait and see how your online participants go through the sub-questions and fill them with what I like to call “idea fragments.” Give your brainstorming team about half a days time to complete the questions. In this process you will collect from 10 participants with five questions, about 500–700 idea fragments in 15–20 minutes.
Step 5: Preparation- Compression of Business Ideas
In this next step, you are asked to prepare the upcoming creativity process phase called the “idea compression.” Take all the idea fragments along with their questions and create a Word or PDF file where you have all the sub-questions with their referring idea fragments listed and send it again to your online brainstorming participants. To do so, open a second Google Docs Form with just one question, this is the major question of your project that in our example would be “What are your business ideas for the next beverage product mega seller?”
Step 6: Compression of Business Ideas
Now, send another email to your participants and ask them to browse through the content collected in step 3, have them make combinations and re-combinations and then contribute ideas for the major question (see step 5) for your project. Ask them to add a title and a description for each idea. With 10 participants and 15–20 minutes of time, you will collect about 70–100 completed ideas.
Step 7: Idea Evaluation
Finally, you can select the best ideas. Create an online survey on, for instance SurveyMonkey, and add your favourite ideas to the survey (10–30 ideas is fine.) The best method to rate an idea is a point scale rating, using “1–8” as your ranking scale. Of course, you can also invite other people than your brainstormers to the idea evaluation process, even your customers or other stakeholders.
Finally: There You Go
Voilà, after going through these steps, you’ll find yourself with a list of creative ideas produced “at the push of a button,” all ready with a first evaluation result. By the way, of course you can also use this process in an offline environment by writing on post-it sheets and paper. No matter if you are going online or using an offline method: have fun finding ideas!