Everyone brainstorms a little differently. The MIT Sloan Management Review has compiled a seven-step plan that should help make the brainstorming process more fruitful.
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The basic gameplan is straightforward:
- Define the problem and solutions space: Basically, create boundaries and rules for your solutions so you don't waste time thinking of solutions that aren't feasible.
- Break the problem down: Make the problem easier to tackle by breaking it into smaller parts using diagrams or mind maps.
- Make the problem personal: Think about how the problem affects you personally.
- Seek the perspectives of outsiders: Try and find as many people as possible who might have input and see what they have to say.
- Diverge before you converge: Breed a little conflict into the discussion when you can. One way to do this is to have everyone write down their ideas before the meeting starts so everyone doesn't rally around the first idea just to get out of the meeting quickly.
- Create "idea resumes": An "idea resume" is a one-page document that breaks down the basics of a solution.
- Create a plan to learn: Start designing a way to test your ideas and write out what you hope to learn from those tests.
The above seven steps certainly aren't the only way to brainstorm, but they do provide a pretty solid foundation to work from.