Say the word “Brainstorming” and you’re likely to get a variety of reactions. “We already know how to do that” or “That doesn’t really work!” or “I love to brainstorm!” But perhaps there is more to brainstorming than you thought. In this eTip, we interviewed John Storm, President of the BrainStorm Network. He has developed many new brainstorming techniques and helped billion dollar firms like Microsoft, BASF, Siemens, and Valspar generate thousands of ideas.
BMC: What is your experience in brainstorming and how did you get started?
Storm: I grew up in an entrepreneurial home where my Dad came home every day with a “million dollar idea.” Most of them were crazy, yet he taught me the fun and value of seeing and solving problems as opportunities. After college I worked as Marketing Director for my family’s business, Storm Lures. That’s where I learned the value of generating ideas in all areas (strategy, branding, sourcing, new product development, marketing, etc.) and harvesting ideas from many different stakeholders. After the company was sold, I got a chance to start BrainStormNetwork.com.
BMC: Why is brainstorming more important now than ever before?
Storm: The world needs great ideas. Just look at the severe problems we face.The way to great ideas is to generate lots of ideas because you can’t just come up with only great ideas. Brainstorming is the process of generating lots of ideas and options so you can find the good (and sometimes, great) ones. Today, due to technology, almost everyone has a “voice.” They want to share their ideas and be part of a team that accomplishes something bigger than themselves. Management doesn’t know everything – how could they? The amount of knowledge generated daily in the world far surpasses any one person’s ability to manage. Plus, the world changes so fast that great bosses must look to all stakeholders for solutions to their challenges. They need teams of people who are aware of and growing in their personal creativity and who are willing to share their ideas in a trust-based, collaborative culture.
What are some steps a business can start taking to get on the right path?
Storm: Start with the ABC’s:
Assess: Do the “Mirror” test. Look deep in the mirror at yourself and your organization. Are you truly open to new ideas? HotJobs.com did a survey asking how many managers wanted employees who “think outside the box”. The answer may surprise you…6%! Many management teams aren’t really open to new thinking.
BrainStorm: Recognize that brainstorming isn’t limited to 1 technique. Most groups still use the 1950’s method…sitting around a table shouting ideas at a facilitator who can’t write fast enough! This is an outdated and inefficient way to generate ideas. Find, practice, and learn new ways to capitalize on the creativity of your team.
Cultivate: Building a trust-based innovation-oriented culture takes time, effort, and intentionality. Like a farmer, plant good seeds in good soil, shine attention on them, water them with encouragement, weed out the distractions and negativity, and wait for a bountiful harvest.
BMC: What are the three most common mistakes you have seen businesses make when it comes to brainstorming?
Storm: Here are the three most common mistakes I have seen:
1) Getting Stuck: As mentioned above, many teams are stuck in old ways of idea generation. You’ve got to mix up the capturing methods, brainstorming techniques, times, places, people.
2) Lack of Systems, Processes, Metrics, & Training: In order to increase your innovation capacity, you need systems and processes to collect, evaluate, store, and communicate your organization’s ideas. Before the brainstorming begins, identify and communicate how the ideas will be evaluated (metrics). And remember, most teams need training to discover new ways to catalyze and capture their creativity.
3) ATNA (All Talk, No Action): One of the worst things you can do is get people to share their ideas and then NOT do anything! This happens more than you might imagine. I recommend finding at least one idea to immediately implement. This fosters hope that management actually reviewed the ideas and that something really might improve. Most people really want to see the great ideas come to life, so don’t let things drag on too long before going after the best ideas.
BMC: Any last words of wisdom in regard to brainstorming for the business sector?
Storm: Every human being was created with the ability to create. Capitalize on this! Shake things up. Get unstuck. Fall and fail. Get up and try something different. Go forth and brainstorm!
John Storm is the founder of the BrainStorm Network. He works with people who want to bring their ideas to Life! He helps teams get unstuck, spark fresh thinking and generate game-changing ideas. His expertise includes: Innovation, BrainStorming, Creativity, and Change. John is a professional speaker, consultant, trainer, and facilitator. Learn more about how he can help solve your high-stakes problems by contacting him at John@BrainstormNetwork.com.