Getting to the ‘A-Ha’ Moment (part 1)

You’ve got to come with a solution to a problem or ideas for a new product or campaign that someone hasn’t thought of before. The Eureka Idea. Research won’t work because everything you’ll find will have been done before. Research won’t take you to Eureka, but a combination of brainstorming and reflection can.

Brainstorming is a technique for generating new ideas. By associating ideas and concepts that haven’t been considered ‘right’ to put together, new ways of thinking emerge. But the real work is in the subconscious, with endorphins and time. But first, Brainstorming.

Background on Brainstorming
Creative problem solving involves putting things together in ways that haven’t been seen that way before. While people have been solving problems and probably using techniques of brainstorming methods since the Neanderthal times, the formal methods were developed by BBDO founder Alex Osborn in the 1940’s to generate advertising concepts.

Brainstorming is a lateral thinking process that generates ideas that may seem at first to be impractical or off-putting. The process is designed to allow for free-wheeling in the early stages, and leaves evaluation to the last stages.

The Rules and of Brainstorming
The basic rules of brainstorming are:

  • Quantity over Quality to generate as many ideas as possible. Although this might seem counterproductive, as you’re trying, eventually to come up with ‘quality,’ the fact is that the more ideas you have, the better chance that one of them will be better than the rest. You’re trying to create a stream of ideas. Assessment comes later.
  • Acceptance over Criticism. No idea is bad. Rather than criticize an idea, brainstormers ‘build’ on ideas thereby encouraging everyone to generate more and better ideas. This means that logic can take a back seat, too. Great associating often isn’t logical or subject to evaluation.
  • Radical over Regular. No idea is too outlandish. In fact, they’re encouraged to achieve goal #1 (quantity). Often it takes a few rounds of associating to see patterns or relationships between disparate ideas. Some kernel of appropriateness might exist within even the most outrageous idea.
  • Pictures and Words. Brainstormers draw diagrams and pictures to make their point. It’s not just about words. Think of it as organized play. With products, you can use simple materials such as clay, wood or paper to ‘represent’ product. “Getting Physical” can help you visualize a concept much better than words.
  • Play over Pressure. Relax. The more playful and spontaneous you are, the better brainstormer you’ll be. You don’t have to come to any decisions during the brainstorming period, so chill. It’s the beginning, not the end.

The Method of Brainstorming
Although brainstorming can be done individually, with either mind mapping or simple listing, the best way to generate a large quantity and variety of ideas is in a group. A moderator is needed to both cajole and record ideas and keep the discussion moving. The moderators responsibility is to define the problem, keep the discussion going and with the help of a ’scribe,’ document the ideas.

Look for the second and final part of Brainstorming: Getting to Eureka next week.