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Good tips on brainstorming

Have you tried to brainstorm with a twelve year-old sometime?
I usually do it with my son, the last time when we talked about what we would eat for dinner.

But he doesn't play by the rules, even though I explain them every time.

This is how it sounds:
Me: OK, let's suggest as many different dishes we can come up with in three minutes and see if there is something that the whole family could enjoy.
Me: Chicken.
He: No!
Me: But I told you not to answer, you shouldn't say anything other than your own dish.
He: OK. Then I say Pizza.
Me: Then I say fish sticks.
He: No!
And that's the way it goes. He is an expert at pulling down my ideas into the dirt. In other words, he does exactly what most companies do. How is it working for you?

Here are some tips for your next brainstorming session:

1. The meeting must be lightweight, so that everyone attending will be eager to pitch in. It should be comfortable and as much as possible set in an environment free of its own agendas. If you are a manager, you have a chance to really set an example by coming up with something really whacky to start with.

2. Someone has to run the meeting and ensure that all twelve year olds are held in check so that the participants don't think too much. The crazier or stupider idea - the better. There are no bad ideas, only the ones that make you laugh.

3. Write down all ideas, for instance on a whiteboard, so that the ideas can be seen and inspire new ones.

4. When the meeting is stagnating and people are getting tired, it's good if you have prepared some ”idea-starters” that gets people up and running again.

5. When all ideas are written down, it's time to judge them, but only in one way - positively.
You can't knock down any idea because it'll ruin the atmosphere and can lead to the participant beginning to defend their own ideas.

6. Test ideas on others. Test on employees, customers, friends, family and others you trust.

7. Go to work.

Some companies see brainstorming as a fuzzy waste of time while others see it as part of its strategy to keep up with and perhaps lead the way in their industry. What do you think?

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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