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How to Become the One That Everybody Looks Forward to Hearing Your Ideas

How to Become the One That Everybody Looks Forward to Hearing Your Ideas

Brainstorming is a matter of throwing out ideas and hoping they stick. You don’t have to evaluate the ideas before presenting them, but rather allow them to flow like a stream of consciousness until you come up with something that works as a single solution. But sometimes we can only generate a few ideas, even after a long period of time. Other times, we are full of possible solutions, but it turns out none of them are actually effective. This is why it’s vital to understand how brainstorming works so we can do it successfully.

Individual Brainstorming vs. Group Brainstorming: The Winner Is…

Most people assume brainstorming in a group is the best way to come up with numerous ideas. Some companies even require group brainstorming sessions among their employees. The more opinions you have, the more likely you are to find the right solution. Right? Not necessarily. Studies[1] have found that individual brainstorming is more effective than group brainstorming:

The empirical evidence clearly indicates that subjects brainstorming in small groups produce fewer ideas than the same number of subjects brainstorming individually…The role of social inhibition receives particular attention also in terms of suggestions for research.

This means the lack of success when it comes to group collaboration is largely due to the fear of sounding silly voicing ideas in a group; We censor our thoughts and only share the ones we think worth mentioning. In many cases, there tends to be a dominant voice in a group brainstorm who limits the potential by setting criteria. This can immediately hinder the group’s creativity, as it causes everyone to overthink and doubt themselves.

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Diffuse Mode vs. Focused Mode: Pick the Right Tool at the Right Time

Though brainstorming is all about abstract ideas, there are ways to organize those thoughts as they come to you. One of these strategies is to use Focused or Diffuse thinking, depending on the scenario. Focused thinking is exactly what it sound like – focusing. This is easier to do in a solo brainstorming session, as there are automatically less distractions. Diffused thinking is all about distractions, making it more ideal for a group collaboration.

Consider a flashlight. You can have a concentrated beam of light that only illuminates a small area very brightly or you can have a less concentrated beam that illuminates a much broader area with a dimmer light[2].

Focused thought allows your brain to analyze specific information and only work with what you allow yourself to use. Diffuse thinking multitasks with the presented information and doesn’t worry about getting too deep with any of the possible solutions. In keeping with the flashlight analogy, remember: Both flashlights will take you out of the darkness, but which one you use is solely dependent on whether you want a broad view of your path, or a narrow route.

5 Ways to Make Brainstorming More Effective

Whether working alone or in a group, there are steps to take in order to achieve success in brainstorming:

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Have a clear objective before you start brainstorming

Many people have the misconception that no boundaries should be set for brainstorming, but that’s false; even if you are happy to generate tons of ideas, they may end up being useless if they’re not helpful in fixing the problem.

Let’s say you are working on an annual fundraiser that seems to have declined in community participation recently. The objective would be to find out why the numbers are declining, not how to generate excitement about the event once more. Though both elements are important, you can’t come up with ideas about revamping the fundraising event until you determine the cause of disinterest.

Give yourself a time limit

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The shorter the better. Sit down with a pen and paper or a tape recorder if you prefer to say your ideas aloud. Keep an eye on the clock or the timer and begin to list off ideas. Allow them to flow out and don’t worry about analyzing them yet. Keep listing ideas that come to you until your time is up.

Be specific with the number of ideas you want to generate

Before you begin brainstorming, decide on a realistic number of ideas you want to come up with. This doesn’t mean all of the ideas have to be useful in the end, only that they exist[3].

Don’t duplicate your thoughts

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If you’re coming up with many similar points, you’re only deceiving yourself when it comes to your success. Using the fundraising example from point one, let’s say you come up with the following: People are no longer coming because they don’t like the event. The event is boring, so people don’t have any interest in coming. These are only two versions of the same thought. Always keep in mind that quality and quantity are equally important in brainstorming.

Imagine that you are someone else

How would they think? Does this mindset present solutions you wouldn’t have otherwise come up with? For instance, if your best friend is very creative and approaches things in ways you would typically shy away from, put yourself in their head space. What kind of right-brained ideas would they come up with as an explanation for a decline in fundraiser attendance? Once you’ve created a list, you can revisit it in your own mindset and narrow the focus.

Looking Ahead

Whether brainstorming on your own or in a group, if you take the steps outlined in this article, you set yourself up for success, not frustration. Some of you reading this may think, “but I don’t really have to brainstorm at work. I feel like we all collaborate pretty well.” If that’s true, that’s awesome! But consider being aware of your daily life and the problems you are sometimes faced with. Do you ever run through a list of possible solutions? If so, you’re brainstorming without thinking about it. Don’t be afraid to incorporate the tips you learned by reading this. Just because it’s your life and not your company doesn’t make problem-solving any less important.

Reference

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Heather Poole

Technical writer

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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