According to Wikipedia “brainstorming is a group creativity technique that was designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution of a problem.” Brainstorming business ideas should be uncensored. No idea is dumb or impossible and each person’s contribution is equally valuable. The mail clerk’s ideas are as valued as the President’s.
In order to step outside of the existing business or industry framework, participants must “erase” their memories and pretend they know nothing about what is (or is not) possible. Consider each idea with equal thoughtfulness, no matter how outlandish. The task at hand when brainstorming truly unique business ideas is to free-associate, generating as many ideas as you can.
Brainstorming via the Five Senses
There’s nothing more boring than a sterile conference room. Yet this is where many new business idea / concept development sessions take place, in a room with four blank walls and no stimuli (far from the best atmosphere for brainstorming new ideas). Brainstorming sessions need “springboards” to get the creative juices flowing.
One technique for breaking out and generating innovative business, product, or service ideas is to get all of the external senses involved. Try filling colorful gift bags with small items of different textures, tastes, appearances, ingredients, sounds, and smells. In the brainstorming session, break into small groups of three or four people and give each group a bag. Have each group sort through the bag, imagining how the sensory aspects could be incorporated into a new product or other new idea. After about 20 minutes of digging through the bags, discussing, and writing down ideas, allow each group to present their ideas. You will find yourself with many more great ideas than you can execute.
Brainstorming via Trends
Another approach to brainstorming business ideas is to study trends. Business and general interest publications; the Internet; and trade journals can be effective brainstorming tools for several reasons:
- The general publications contain articles across several industries — and society in general — which is good for brainstorming new ideas that can apply to your own industry.
- Business publications often include a mix of short articles (good for brainstorming ideas based on what others outside your industry are doing) and in-depth reports (good for new product concept development based on trends).
- The Internet reflects trends on a real-time basis. Social bookmarking sites and blog directories (such as del.icio.us and Technorati), track and report the hottest topics. Wordtracker monitors online searches, reporting the top 100 daily.
- By skimming a variety of business related articles (news articles, features, human interest, and analytical pieces) you broaden your idea base, which results in more new product ideas.