by Emily Campbell
Whether you love to come up with creative new ideas during brainstorming sessions, or if you find yourself intimidated by the brainstorming process, it’s likely that you will encounter brainstorming situations at work. Because the best ideas strike when we least expect them to come to us. The brainstorming process is incredibly challenging and hard to predict.
Those that are able to come up with great ideas on command are always invaluable in the workplace, no matter their industry or job title. It’s clearly well worth the effort for professionals young and old to invest time and effort in improving their brainstorming abilities, as all types of professionals can stand to benefit from learning new brainstorming tips and tricks.
Brainstorming can be difficult for a number of very different reasons, and each challenge requires a unique, strategic solution. Factors like groupthink, lack of preparation, and poor office culture make employees uncomfortable sharing their ideas and stifle innovation. Additionally, many introverts detest brainstorms, instead preferring to spend time alone focusing on idea generation. Despite these many different challenges, if you learn to implement brainstorming best practices you will be well prepared to come up with interesting and original ideas in all types of situations.
One helpful framework for counteracting the most common brainstorming pitfalls is called the four pillars of brainstorming. The concept of using the four pillars when brainstorming creative ideas was developed by Alex F. Osborn, an advertiser who coined the term “brainstorm” in the 1940s. His formula suggests going for quality, withholding criticism, welcoming wild ideas, and combining and improving ideas. These tactics can be used to create a brainstorming environment that all types of employees will excel in time and time again.
The Four Pillars of Brainstorming
1. Go For Quantity
The first pillar, Go For Quantity, emphasizes the importance of generating a lot of ideas during a brainstorming session. Though it can feel challenging to generate a lot of ideas quickly, remind yourself that it’s okay to mention an idea even if it’s only half baked. A common recommendation is to strive to generate 100 ideas during a one hour brainstorm to make sure that you have built a strong list of ideas.
If you struggle to come up with ideas during a brainstorm, it’s best to take time to prepare beforehand. Keep an idea journal with you at all times so that you can jot down ideas as inspiration strikes. Exposing yourself to inspiring, interesting content regularly is another great way to increase your ability to come up with creative ideas.
2. Withhold Criticism
The second principle asserts the importance of withholding your criticism during the brainstorm process. Instead of shooting down a colleague’s idea, try to come up with ways to remold it or improve it. By taking a collaborative approach, you’ll be able to fully flesh out ideas and come up with a truly great innovation.
If you need a fool-proof way to evaluate your colleagues’ ideas, try using the SWOT framework to evaluate ideas. This framework will allow you to objectively think through the benefits and issues that exist with each idea so that you can build out the idea to its full potential.
3. Welcome Wild Ideas
The third important aspect of the four pillars is welcoming wild ideas. Those that are curious about the world around them are usually better prepared to come up with interesting brainstorm ideas.
If you find yourself feeling skeptical about a colleague’s crazy idea, remind yourself to suspend your disbelief during the brainstorming session. If you create a culture where people feel comfortable sharing “wacky” ideas, you’re much more likely to stumble upon an innovative approach you otherwise never would’ve thought of.
4. Combine and Improve Ideas
Finally, work with your teammates to combine and improve ideas. This is the most important step, as it’s during this time that the group truly evaluates the contributions from the brainstorming session and builds a game plan for moving forward. When thinking about which ideas to move forward with, it can be helpful to think about the effort required and the potential payoff that comes with executing each idea.
If you’re interested in learning more about the four pillars of brainstorming, Fundera created a super cool and unique infographic full of brainstorming tips and tricks, including Osborn’s four pillars.
Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.