“Let’s brainstorm that!” – is a refrain often heard in the corporate world, even if the technique isn’t really understood or used to its fullest capacity.

Brainstorming is best used as a group activity, with some clear guidelines, but we probably often do our own brainstorming on a pad of paper when an idea grips us, quite frequently in the middle of the night (or is that just me?).

What about Mind Mapping?  You’ve probably heard that phrase here and there, but do you really know how it works?

And Imagineering? Yes, it’s a word and a tool for sourcing new ideas.

What about the next steps?  Do you know what to do once you’ve Mind Mapped or Brainstormed your ideas?

In this series of posts, I will show you how to use simple creativity and planning tools to get your project moving.

First, let’s remind ourselves what brainstorming is and how to do it.

The most important thing – suspend all judgement and criticism!  Brainstorming is a free-flowing stream of ideas, no matter how silly, how outrageous, how ridiculous.  You start with a central idea or question and then go for it!  Let those ideas flow.  Use a piece of paper, sticky notes, a whiteboard, whatever works for you and don’t stop for at least fifteen minutes.  If you’re “storming” in a group, take turns to shout out ideas while one person writes them down, or make it a free-for-all.

In a group, you can use prompts whenever the ideas start slowing down, like “How can we build on that?”, or “What would our clients think?”, “What would the Wiggles do?” (well, it depends on how badly you need to stimulate the brains).

Remember – no censorship, no criticism, no discussion of ideas.  It’s all about quantity, not quality.

Moving on to Mind Mapping.

First described by Tony Buzan, Mind Mapping is an organised form of Brainstorming.  You start with a central idea, question or problem.  Like so.

Then you brainstorm some key ideas or answers to your question/problem.  Write these around your central Idea and draw lines to join them up, like so:

 These few initial ideas become your key groupings or headings for future ideas.  With each new idea you add, decide whether it belongs somewhere with the existing groups or is a new grouping.  Keep drawing lines and joining ideas.  What you will eventually end up with may look like this:

or this:

Be as creative as you like.  Add pictures, colour, symbols.  This is how our brain works naturally, so as you grow your mind map your brain will automatically come up with new ideas.

For more information on Mind Mapping and some more amazing examples of Mind Maps visit the Buzan Centre Australia.  You can even find some Mind Mapping software there.

Finally, what is Imagineering?

This is my favourite creative tool.  Why?  Because you start with the best possible scenario you can imagine.  The best possible solution to your problem, or the best manifestation of your idea.  That’s why it’s called Imagineering.  You IMAGINE first, then look for practical ways to get there later.

So, either in a group or by yourself, IMAGINE your perfect world.  Write it down as your central idea.  Then, start writing down all the features, benefits, characteristics of that perfect scenario.  What does it look like, who is involved, how does it feel, what do people think about it, where is it, when is it.  Keep going for at least 15 minutes, going into as much detail as you can.  When you’ve finished, review all your ideas – discard any duplicates, merge any that are similar and dismiss any that are truly unreasonable.

Now that you have all your ideas out in the open, you can start your planning process.  Next time I will show you some tools for getting your ideas organised, prioritised and planned.