The best way to start a project is with a brainstorming session — with your team or by yourself. But brainstorming sessions can lose focus real easy because we have a tendency to get off track when we have these type of discussions. Here are ten great tips from SmartDraw.com, the makers of the popular SmartDraw business graphics software.
- Quantity not Quality. When brainstorming on your own or with a team of people, the goal is to express as many ideas as possible very quickly. Do not self-censor or hesitate before offering an idea. A free exchange is what can help bring your most brilliant ideas to the surface.
- Pen to Paper. Assign a person to write down all of the ideas on a sheet of paper that can be seen by all of the participants. This list will serve as the master and will be culled to include the most relevant suggestions.
- No Critics. All ideas should be welcome and no one (leader or participant) should issue any type of verbal criticism toward an idea presented, no matter how off base it may seem at the time. This will help keep the environment supportive and help to encourage everyone to take part in the process.
- Time’s Up. For fertile idea generation, set a time limit. Having a ticking clock or a timer helps get the creative juices flowing.
- Go the Extra Mile. Even after you think you’ve exhausted all of the possibilities, reexamine the ideas presented and push yourself to add a few more to the list.
- Change of Scenery. Sometimes the best brainstorming and idea generation can happen in new surroundings. So, leave the all-too-familiar conference room behind and meet somewhere new, maybe a colleague’s home, a park or a quiet café.
- Small Groups. Brainstorming works best in groups of up to 15 people. If a group gets too large, some attendees may not feel as comfortable participating.
- Brainstorm Alone? Sure, it’s possible. Create a mind map starting with your central theme and branch off that, setting new ideas in different circles that connect to the central theme. Maybe one of your new ideas inspires you, so make it a theme and connect new thoughts to it. This form of mind mapping is commonly used by writers trying to spark their imagination. The main rules are the same: no self-censorship, set a time limit, and keep writing – the pen must be touching the page the entire time.
- Project Maps. Mind maps are great to use in project management. One such use would be to brainstorm a list of all the questions you have regarding the scope of your project to make sure you are prepared with the answers.
- Have Fun! Brainstorming can be fun, and is a great way to boost morale among employees and help them to feel part of the decision making process.
SmartDraw, which offers a free of mind mapping software on its website at http://www.smartdraw.com/specials/mindmapping.asp along with hundreds of mind map templates you can modify to quickly create the graphic you need.