The evolutionary brainstorming: do it as your brain was wired to do it

You have probably been in many brainstorming meetings where you encountered one of the two following scenarios:

  1. “Dear colleagues, what are your ideas on this project…”, followed by a long silence, as if there was a brainstorming switch to turn on;
  2. You suggest an idea and immediately someone is saying: “No, this is not possible, it’s not a very good idea!”.

These two scenarios gather the two main pitfalls of effective brainstormings: priming and judging.

In a very nice video, David Allen is presenting a very simple but powerful method to brainstorm as your brain was wired to do it. He focuses on 5 steps that can be applied to brainstormings alone or in groups:

  1. First you need to clarify what is the purpose of the project. Here you need to answer the question: “why am I doing this project?”. I using the word project as a generic term for anything you might need a brainstorming for.
  2. Once the purpose is clear, prime your brain by visioning the positive outcome. At this stage, you need to answer the question: “if everything goes as planned, how would it look like?”.
  3. At this point, your brain will naturally start firing ideas. This is the brainstorming part. It might be small details or what looks like very important pieces of information. In any case, it is very important for this step, not to judge ideas and not to organise them.
  4. When the flow of ideas decreases, you can start organising. It can be following some timeline or categories, every project has its own organising system. Of course, this might lead again to ideas so you can continue filling in your document.
  5. To make sure your brainstorming is not just a nice exercise, you need to plan the next action: what do you need to do to make your project move forward. It is also very important to identify a precise task here.

I advise you to use a simple template to always have these steps ready.

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Posted in PhD