1. Brainstorm the right way
Contrary to popular belief, a team brainstorming session is often the death of big ideas.
The problem is, we are all very impressionable creatures and can’t help but react to those around us. This means that a group of people sitting down to fire out ideas will essentially only be reacting to the first idea voiced out loud. The following conversation will merely be a combination of people supporting or negating that first idea, and other ideas based on associations with the first. It becomes more of an analytical session rather than one of free-flowing ideas.
If you really want to get the most value out of the brains you have at your disposal, get them to brainstorm some ideas individually first – without the influence of anyone else. Then gather the team together for a group session to share ideas and filter them down. You will have a bigger pool and better variety to work with, which is the key to finding a truly strong solution.
Aristotle once said, “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor.” It is an incredibly effective creative device and can help you to see familiar things in new ways. This is a great technique when you are trying to find the solution to a problem and want to break free of the obvious answers.
Let’s take the example of this challenge: ‘I want to get more customers’. All we need to do is to change the verb and the noun to create a metaphor – say, ‘I want to catch more fish’. Now you have a fresh challenge to tackle (no pun intended), free from the obvious associations of your original challenge.
Make a Mind Map with this new challenge as your central idea and start branching off ideas. For our example metaphor, you may come up with ideas, such as use correct bait, ask a fisherman, buy a good rod, use a net, read a book on it, study the habits of the fish etc.
The final step is to map these ideas back to the original challenge. Take each idea and try to think how it could be a metaphor for something relating to the real task. Here’s how it’s done…
3. Change your point of reference
People are subjective – we view situations in different ways, dependant on our background, experience, personality, biology and so on. Your perspective on a situation could be completely different to the person that sits next to you on the bus. Is the glass half empty or half full?
Rather than being a limitation, this actually provides you with an excellent opportunity to find more innovative solutions to your challenges. You simply need to change your point of reference; get a fresh perspective by standing in someone else’s shoes.
Firstly, you need to decide whose perspectives you would like to explore. This can be anyone, such as: prominent figures, like JFK or Madonna; archetypes, like the hero, lover, villain; fictional characters; people you know; professions. There are no limits here – the purpose is to get a variety of perspectives.
Once you have them, place them as the main branches on a Mind Map with your challenge at the centre. Now start facing your challenge from their points of reference. Become each person and consider how they would view the situation, what they would focus on – would they even see it as important? Jot these down on your map and begin to think of what each of them would do to address the challenge.
For example, if your problem is to ‘increase sales’, and you’re viewing it from the perspective of a child, you might come up with ideas like adding more playful and entertaining features to your product that customers would be willing to pay for.
This activity is likely to draw out lots of inventive approaches to your challenge that you may not have thought of when trapped in your own perspective. A great technique to get ideas flowing again when they have started to dry up.
4. Reverse the challenge
This is a fantastically simple technique for uncovering some fresh ideas. All it means is taking your problem or challenge and trying to think of ways to achieve the exact opposite. Strange as it sounds, it really works.
Take the example, ‘how to get more customers’. This would probably produce ideas such as:
However, if you reverse it and start looking at how not to get customers, the ideas may start taking a very different direction…
You can see that the focus has changed completely and thrown up some potential areas of improvement that weren’t so obvious before. You will often find that this exercise results in a number of forehead-slapping moments, ‘how had I not thought of that?!’
So if you are faced with a challenge (and you might want to think about finding one if you aren’t!), make sure you have a go at some of these techniques. Don’t let 2013 be a year of the ‘tried and tested’ – instead let’s go for ‘fresh and innovative’!
GRASP The Solution by Chris Griffiths is available now from ThinkBuzan.
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