What is brainstorming and the 7 best techniques for making smart decisions – WAU

Brainstorming is a technique to encourage the emergence of creative solutions. The Tempest of Ideas, in London, is held in a meeting and allows the sharing of valuable ideas, solutions and insights for the company.

The ability to make efficient decisions is one of the most important qualities to guarantee the maintenance of a company’s competitiveness. For this to be possible, it is necessary to invest in techniques that encourage strategic thinking and enable management to find efficient solutions.

In this sense, companies of all sizes and segments adopt a practice called brainstorming, a term that can be translated into London as a “storm of ideas”. However, there is no point in bringing together the thinking heads of Marketing and waiting for the solution to present itself, it is necessary to adopt good practices.

To delve deeper into the subject, we prepared this article focused on the concept of brainstorming. In it, you will discover:

Continue reading and check it out!

What is brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a technique that, through spontaneous sharing of ideas, seeks to find the solution to a problem or generate creative insights. The idea of ​​this process is to give life to the maxim “two heads are better than one”.

Therefore, it is essential that brainstorming involves a higher number of participants, preferably bringing together people active in the company, but who bring different perspectives. This plurality of ideas is the pillar of technique. To be successful, the process must focus on quantity, not quality.

Like this, it is important that brainstorming is completely free of criticism. Even ideas that seem ineffective must be taken into account, after all, they can be the starting point for building deeper thoughts.

However, it is important not to confuse this freedom of ideas with the lack of a clear objective. It is crucial that participants in the process keep in mind which problem they want to solve or what kind of novelty they want to develop. In the end, the best insights are extracted and converted into strategy.

What is the history of brainstorming?

To understand the history of this technique, it is necessary to know more about the man who created it. Alex Faickney Osborn was a professional in the field of advertising and a student of creative thinking. Among his most famous works are commercials written for brands like General Electric and Chrysler.

Author of several books on the development of advertising creativity, Alex was marked by the work “How to Think Up”, launched in 1942. In the book, Osborn mentions for the first time the term “brainstorming”, revolutionizing the creative process forever.

Since then, the storm of ideas has become a technique used in practically all companies that work with innovation or that seek creative solutions to their problems.

What is brainstorming for?

You already know that brainstorming is used to generate innovative thoughts for solving problems or defining strategies. However, essentially, what is the use of bringing people together and encouraging the free sharing of insights without regulating their relevance to the process?

Is that, according to the theory of creative thinking, the best way to come up with a brilliant idea is to have lots of ideas. Thus, even the most absurd ones are taken into account in order, in the end, to allow a filter that allows choosing the ones that are most appropriate to deal with the proposed objective.

Therefore, organizing a group dynamic along these lines serves to enable the acceleration of the creative process. In the end, the filter imposed at the end of the meeting eliminates ideas that, were it not for the development of brainstorming, might sound more relevant than it really is.

What are the advantages of applying this technique?

So far, you have understood the concept of brainstorming, learned about its history and discovered what the process is for. But after all, why adopt this technique and not others that seek the same end? Well, the first advantage is the positive effect it has on productivity of the teams.

As it promotes constant interaction and the enhancement of all insights, the process encourages teamwork. Thus, a company that invests in this procedure will have a more adequate work environment.

Other than that, employees involved in brainstorming tend to have increased levels of effectiveness. This is due to the appreciation they feel when they are involved in a dynamic that can decide the direction of the business. The confidence generated by this phenomenon is fundamental to optimize the internal communication.

What are the possible applications of brainstorming?

We can say that the main – or most common – application of brainstorming is in the design of advertising campaigns. Whether for branding purposes or to prepare a product launch, the technique gives a more original air to the brand’s efforts to communicate with the general public.

Brainstorming, however, is not restricted to advertising use. The practice can be adopted in basically all areas of the company. Considering a Content Marketing strategy, for example, the process can be geared towards identifying relevant guidelines or the most appropriate keywords.

As it also deals with the search for solutions to problems, the concept can be applied to solve logistical bottlenecks or to improve products and services that suffer from the resistance of the persona. Even the company’s internal processes can be optimized with brainstorming.

Therefore, it is fair to conclude that the technique coined by Alex Osborn can be used for almost all purposes. The only caveat is that the objective of the session must be determined before it starts, in order to ensure that the ideas are, in some way, directed towards the solution of the problem in question.

What are the types of brainstorming?

In order to present efficient results, all brainstorming sessions must follow the same model, that is, encourage the sharing of ideas without judging their relevance before the end of the procedure. Still, there are two different types of these group dynamics: the structured and the unstructured.

The first is organized into rounds. At a predetermined time, the participants have space to express their thoughts and defend the reason why they believe they are relevant. This model encourages everyone to participate, but it can put some pressure on the most timid.

The second model does not define an order for the display of insights or even a time limit for completing the reasoning. Thus, the sharing of ideas is not done in rounds, but according to their appearance.

Although it provides a more relaxed environment, care must be taken that the brainstorming carried out under this model is not dominated by a small number of participants.

What are the principles and rules of brainstorming?

To ensure the smooth running of the session, it is important to have non-judgment as a fundamental principle. In other words, all ideas must be seen as equal, even those that sound absurd or meaningless. Otherwise, good insight can be ignored due to poor presentation.

Another principle is to stimulate the quantity of ideas, leaving their qualities as a secondary factor. The more thoughts exposed, the greater the chances of reaching a creative and efficient solution. In the end, the best ideas can be combined and converted into actions. If it doesn’t, the process doesn’t make sense.

As for the rules, we can mention the following:

  • focus on quantity, not quality;
  • avoid making criticisms or negative comments;
  • enjoy unusual ideas;
  • combine the most relevant ideas;
  • discuss ways to put them into practice;
  • periodically, make clear the effect that brainstorming is having on the company.

What not to do in brainstorming?

With the principles and rules of brainstorming in mind, you already have an idea of ​​practices that should not be carried out throughout the process. Even so, let’s go a little deeper into each one of them, as this is an essential point for the smooth running of the meeting.

So, check out what you shouldn’t do.

Condemn the idea of ​​others

When bringing together people with different points of view, personalities and work approaches, it is very common for some ideas to seem bad, or even absurd, at certain moments in the discussion.

Even so, do not allow a participant to quickly condemn the idea of ​​a colleague, as this can shift the focus of the conversation or inhibit others from participating.

From the start of the session, encourage everyone to keep an open mind even on ideas they think are bad and point out that a more careful assessment of everything said will be done at another meeting.

Stop the creative flow

Interrupting the session is bad for the quality of your brainstorming. So, if you want to leave the meeting with good ideas that can really be turned into something concrete, eliminate any distractions.

This includes calls in the middle of the conversation, people who are not part of the discussion, entering the room to ask questions or pass messages and even noises coming from outside the environment. Therefore, choose a location away from noisy devices and, preferably, without windows that can bring noise from the street.

Every time the conversation is paused, the creative flow is interrupted, that is, the participants can start thinking about other issues and lose their line of reasoning.

Let the conversation become a lecture

If the conversation is in a group, it is vitally important that everyone in the room say about the problem being considered. Therefore, never allow the session to become a lecture. What would that be?

In a lecture, only one person speaks and the audience listens. At some point, there may be a question and answer session, but that’s basically it. If something like that happens in brainstorming – few speak, the rest just watch – the meeting will be a waste of time and talent.

Allow conflicts all the time

Conflicts are normal, because as a solution is presented, new variables can surface and help refine the initial idea. The problem is to let conflicts happen all the time, which can hinder the process.

If that’s the case, the focus will quickly change, and what was supposed to be a quest to solve a problem will become a war to see who has the best arguments.

If that happen, O environment it will get heavy too much for something constructive to be produced, and the whole purpose of the meeting will be lost.

Do not take the brainstorming forward

The last problem that you should avoid is not taking brainstorming any further. It is true that it can be quite fun to hold these sessions, but the ultimate goal is to turn at least part of the views and hypotheses raised into reality.

So, make sure that everything that is initially proposed will be properly evaluated later and that the most promising ideas will be carried forward.

More than that, make a point of show the team the evolution of the projects based on brainstorming, as this will motivate you even more in the next sessions. On the other hand, if the ideas raised in the sessions are not put into practice, the process will lose all credibility.

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How to do a brainstorming?

In theory, you already know how the brainstorming process works, which rules and principles should be followed and which mistakes should be avoided. But how to put it all together and put the process into practice, ensuring that the result is the best possible?

To begin, take steps to ensure that everyone arrives prepared for the meeting. For this, it is essential that participants are informed in advance of the character of the brainstorming, that is, what kind of problem you will need to deal with during the session. Thus, they can carry out research and readings that will fuel their creativity.

Then, it is essential to ensure that the meeting environment is pleasant. This means finding a well-lit, airy, comfortable space and, above all, without noise or other forms of distraction. It is also necessary that the participants arrive without tension in order to deliver the best of themselves.

State the problem

Now that you’ve taken care of your previous concerns and brought the team together in an appropriate environment, it’s time to start brainstorming. To do this, start by detailing the purpose of the session. It is necessary that all relevant points are addressed, so as not to miss anything.

As the session unfolds, always focus on the main problem. In some cases, the matter ends up deviating to secondary issues, which can affect the outcome of the meeting.

Moderate the discussion with balance

Moderating the discussion with balance means giving space for everyone to contribute and for ideas to be proposed gradually, so that each participant can add new information to what is said by another.

Thinking about that, don’t let a person expose everything they think at once. In this way, the conversation remains dynamic and favors the emergence of projects that can work in practice.

Take note of everything

Finally, take note of absolutely everything that is considered – even those ideas that seemed absurd – in order to assess the implications of each one later and make a sort of sieve.

If you prefer, you can ask another participant to make this record while you are concerned with keeping the debate productive and in focus.

What are the main techniques to use when brainstorming?

As with any type of process, adopting the best practices available for brainstorming ensures more efficient and productive results. Thus, we will use the rest of the text to list and detail some of the most relevant techniques in this regard. Follow!

Prior preparation

In the last topic, we have already made clear the importance of presenting the problem in advance to the meeting participants. To corroborate this indication, we rely on an article from Decision Analysis magazine published in 2012 by Professor Ralph Keeney.

According to him, it is not enough to gather a group in search of ideas. It is more efficient to present the problem to the group and give some coordinates before the brainstorming meeting itself.

For the professor, a team that studies the subject and focuses its efforts on solving the problem before the meeting can bring ideas and more efficient solutions during the brainstorming.

Therefore, taking into account Keeney’s statements, the ideal is to delegate individual study materials for the team to think and strive, separately, seeking solutions to the proposed problem.

Then, a meeting with the team to present the proposed solutions can generate much more results, either by adding ideas or discovering a superior solution.

SWOT Analysis

If you have knowledge in business management, you must have already worked with SWOT analysis. It is a mapping that seeks to identify, internally and externally, the weaknesses, strengths, threats and opportunities of a given business.

When applied to brainstorming, this technique suggests the creation of a graphic representation of the current situation of the company or a specific department. Thus, the participants have an easier time to understand the totality of the problem to be solved.

If you need to remember or simply know a little better about this methodology, check out our explanatory video on the topic:

Trigger method

The trigger method is very simple, but it has everything to work perfectly in most companies. The idea is basically use initial opinions as a starting point for other better ideas.

So the first step is to discuss as many suggestions as possible, even those that seem ineffective. Then, the best ones are chosen and used as a trigger for the team to have even more insights. The process is repeated until the final solution is found.

Teleport

Teleportation is one of the most innovative brainstorming techniques, so it requires participants to keep an open mind. In this approach, the team is encouraged to imagine facing the same problem in several different scenarios.

Imagining, for example, that you need to deal with the topic in question residing in another state, country or even planet makes the mind work differently. Thus, the stunning scenario can be the starting point for the emergence of a brilliant strategy.

post-it notes

In brainstorming, the use of graphic resources is fundamental to bring more visibility for ideas and agility for the process, in addition to inspiring the team to participate more effectively. Therefore, the use of sticky paper pads can be valuable.

Give each team member a notepad and a pen. Ask them to write down their ideas and stick them on a shared board. This activity will give an overview of the team’s attunement and could be a starting point for discovering a good idea of ​​project execution.

Attribute change

The attribute change technique follows the same imaginative line as teleportation. However, instead of imagining themselves in a different setting, the participant is encouraged to imagine themselves as someone else. Thus, the team tries to think about the problem from the point of view of people of another sex, color, gender, class, height, etc.

Each change of attribute can generate diverse thoughts, contributing to the wealth of ideas of the meeting. An interesting practice may be to use persona characteristics during brainstorming. So, in addition to stimulating creativity, you still work to understand your ideal consumer.

Mindmapping

How about summarizing the problem in a maximum of 3 words? This is the 1st step to apply the technique of mindmapping (or mind map) during brainstorming.

It works like this: from the 3 terms that synthesize the problem, you and your team will think of related words and write them on a large sheet, always linking each other with a line.

After running out of ideas for the original 3 words, do the same for the derived words. Continue to fill the entire space or until a good idea comes along.

Tangible brainstorming

Now imagine that your team’s challenge is to improve the packaging of a product. Make it more beautiful, sustainable and practical to handle.

Tangibility is a good technique to use during the brainstorming process, in this case. After all, with the current packaging in hand, or even with prototypes not yet approved, it is easier for the team to understand and identify the main points for improvement.

However, this is just an example. The application can also serve to better illustrate the situations and bring the expected scenario into evidence for the participants.

For example: if you talk about an action for an audience that loves to run, how about bringing a squeeze, running shoes and some running apps to the center of the table?

When the team is more involved in the world and in the target audience scenario, it is easier to understand their needs, expectations and, of course, less painful to have useful ideas to offer solutions to that audience.

Opposite brainstorming

This is a very creative approach to the brainstorming meeting. Instead of proposing solutions, the leader asks the participants to imagine actions that can amplify the problem. In a first impression, you will probably find this path strange, but we guarantee that it can be quite efficient.

To understand, imagine that you are looking for ideas to speed up customer service. When reversing the issue, participants should look for actions that will slow down the process, even if this is clearly not the end goal.

The insights emerging from this approach can, in the end, be converted into a list of what not to do while on call to make it faster. In addition, you can bring to light practices that are currently being carried out, even if without intention. Thus, it is possible to act to implement improvements.

Brainstorming is a creative process that can be used in different areas of the company, with the most varied objectives. To guarantee the benefits of the process created by Alex Osborn, which include improving the work environment, it is essential to provide an adequate environment, free from criticism and distractions.

So, ready to brainstorm in your company and stimulate creative solutions? Do you want to continue learning about it? Check out this article where we list the 26 best TED Talks geared towards creativity!