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Better Brainstorming: Finding Good Ideas with a Remote Workforce
Brainstorming gets a bad rap.
It has a reputation for being an aimless exercise where a bunch of people get together and wait for inspiration to magically appear.
Alex Osborn would be appalled.
Osborn invented brainstorming. Only he didn’t see it as passively waiting for lightening to strike in the form of a brilliant idea.
Here’s how he described it:
“Brainstorm means using the brain to storm a creative problem and to do so in commando fashion, each stormer audaciously attacking the same objective.”
Osborn was an ad executive for the firm that served as the inspiration for Mad Men. He spent his career refining the brainstorming process.
7 Steps to Brainstorming
Osborn’s brainstorming was rooted in two principles – defer judgment and reach for quantity. In other words, “no such thing as a bad idea.” He recommended the following structure:
- Prepare by defining the specific problem
- Generate ideas
- Put ideas in buckets
- Generate action steps
- Act and test your ideas
- Brainstorm again using your new data
How to Have a Remote Brainstorm Session
Big brainstorm sessions around a whiteboard are fun, and it’s harder to capture that excitement over a Zoom call.
Remote or not, some researchers today argue group brainstorms aren’t particularly effective at generating ideas. Politics and personality types can influence which ideas get the most attention, and sometimes people really do their best thinking on their own.
NYU researcher Melissa Schilling suggests keeping those overarching brainstorming principles, but encouraging people to dream up big ideas on their own.
It’s a twist on brainstorming uniquely suited for remote work, where people have more time than ever to work alone. Armed with more fully baked ideas, people can then come together as a group to refine concepts and collaborate on the best answer to the problem.