Brainstorming is the starting place of all good ideas. From “What should we do today?” to “What’s our next company logo going to be?” brainstorming is what gets you going. And although it’s so important, sometimes it can be seemingly impossible to think up new ideas. That’s where this list comes in. These are our favorite brainstorming techniques. Give them a try next time you have a meeting at work — your coworkers might just be impressed with your creative approach.

1. Do a SWOT analysis.

If you’re not familiar with this term, SWOT analyses are usually used by businesses to determine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a particular venture. SWOT analyses are helpful because the categories are predetermined for you, giving you the opportunity to simply identify all of the aspects of your problem and put them in one of the four spots.

2. Move to a new location.

That might sound like a pretty lame suggestion, but it really does help. Sometimes, a new environment can foster new ideas. So next time you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, gather everyone together and change venues. If it’s a nice day, go outside. The fresh air will get everyone’s creative juices flowing.

3. Do anything else.

Seriously. Think about anything other than what you should be thinking about. Go for a run, take a shower, play a game. Often, we come up with our best ideas when we’re not even actively thinking about the problem at hand.

4. Have a rapid-fire round table discussion.

In a meeting, go around the room and have everyone say the first idea that comes to his or her mind, and then write it down. This puts people on the spot, which can be uncomfortable at first. However, often the simplest ideas are the best, and this gives everyone a chance to contribute without having much time to think about their answers.

5. Keep a notebook on you everywhere.

We often come up with good ideas at the worst possible times. If you make sure you always have a small notebook and pen or pencil on your person, you’ll be more able to jot down those good ideas and save them for when they’re really useful. Many people keep notepads and writing utensils by their beds, because they often brainstorm in their sleep.

6. Round table writing exercise.

In a meeting, have everyone write down their ideas for a few minutes. Then trade sheets of paper, and expand on those ideas. This way, everyone contributes and is brainstorming, so the work doesn’t fall on one person. This is also a good strategy because with multiple people working on the same ideas, there are better odds that they’ll be useable down the road.

7. What would ______ do?

If you need a jolt of inspiration, look to who you admire most. Many people think of their heroes when facing tough issues. By asking yourself, “What would ______ do?” you might just find the answer to your problem.

8. Be someone else.

This exercise involves you trying to look at the problem through the eyes of another person. Ask yourself how you would approach the issue if you were a different gender, age, ethnicity, background, in a different position, etc.

9. Live in another time.

I’ve mentioned several times now that often the simplest answers are the best. This technique allows you to explore that. Imagine you have the same issue that you do now, but it’s 100 years in the past. How would you handle it? Presumably, very differently than you would today. Use your brainstormed ideas from this exercise and then apply them to your modern-day situation.

10. Change your budget.

How would you tackle the problem if you had no money? What about if you had an endless supply of money? Use these ideas as ways to build upon an idea that fits into your budget in reality.

11. Add on to your ideas.

Compile a list of your best ideas. Expand on each one of them. Write all of this down and see what ideas seem to be panning out the best.

12. Live in another place.

Think about how you would handle the problem if you lived in another country or another part of the world. This could drastically change your mindset, so give it a go! You might be surprised by how well you can translate your brainstormed ideas to fit your project.

Featured photo credit: Waag Society via flickr.com

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