Summertime can be difficult for focus, especially if you live and work in geographic locations that seem to stretch the winter months and dark days. You look forward to longer, warmer days.
But we cannot put our work on hold, even if our brain seems to be in beach mode.
Brainstorming is an excellent solution to this challenge of focus.
We hear this from time to time: Teams need to regroup and brainstorm for new ideas, inspiration, and to overcome challenges.
Brainstorming, either with a team or by ourselves (I’ll explain in a minute), is necessary to enhance our creative exploration. For example, the article Creativity at Work*Potočnik, K., & Anderson, N. (2016, December 22). Creativity at Work. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Ed. brings out that, “The brainstorming method has been found highly effective for enhancing employee creativity, not only in terms of short-term results, such as increasing the number of generated ideas, but also in terms of long-term results, such as creating an innovation culture.”
We become narrow-focused because we are aware of the tasks we have and what needs to be done, typically on a routine basis. Finding time in a relaxed atmosphere to sit back, think about our goals and how we want to reach them, is challenging with busy schedules.
But in order to embrace change, to make change, to analyze the methods that are working to achieve what we need, or what is not working, means brainstorming sessions need to be a priority.
We make things a priority when we have trained our minds to accept that a certain task, thing or person is important to us. We have to form the mind-set that brainstorming is a key element in being creative and rejuvenated. This is especially important during times that our minds have trouble focusing on work and we are struggling with inspiration.
How to brainstorm
Set a schedule
If at all possible, keep the scheduled days/times consistent. Have a brainstorm session at least once a week. Allot a set time, such as 10 minutes or as much as 30. More than 30 and you will lose the effectiveness of the point of brainstorming. A set time will keep everyone focused on the purpose of the session.
Choose a consistent, peaceful setting
Whether this setting is in your office with all equipment on silent mode, in a café in the corner, or the boardroom, creating the space for brainstorming will train the mind to adapt to this familiar environment. Your sessions will be productive in this way.
Have a prepared point for discussion
Before each session, make sure you have a focused point of discussion. This will save valuable time when you avoid asking the team: “So what do you want to talk about?” The point or subject can stem from the previous brainstorm session. Or if you or someone on the team has a subject he would like to discuss, he can email the rest of the team ahead of time. The key is to give everyone ample time to think about the subject and how they can contribute to the discussion.
Involve key players and outside perspectives
Your team is your team, but sometimes an outside perspective can shed light on a challenge that is difficult to overcome, especially if it has been addressed multiple times. Make sure everyone involved in the goal is included in the discussion. Which means that sometimes your brainstorm sessions might have different faces.
Include solid goals
While it is great to share ideas, ideas do not become anything else without goals to back them up. But beyond stating goals, make sure the goals are attainable and what steps each person needs to take to reach them. Write down the goals, including all who are responsible for contributing to them, and give reasonable deadlines.
Goals of brainstorming
I have written before about the importance of vacations and rest to increase productivity. And having brainstorm sessions in quiet settings will help toward a productive session.
But brainstorming sessions are not about rest; they involve making our minds active in creativity. Brainstorming is about innovation, and that is something all businesses need to constantly be thinking about as they move forward. Innovation affects production.
Brainstorming is not your typical weekly office meeting. It is not a time to review tasks, listen to weekly reports, or have deep discussions about projects and corporate activity.
Merriam-Webster defines “brainstorming” as: “a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; also: the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem.”
Brainstorming solicits ideas from a variety of sources, perspectives and experiences. That’s why your prepared point for discussion is important so you can be productive and focused.
Brainstorming without a team
Not having a team in your creative arsenal can create its own challenge. But taking the time to be creative on our own can be useful. Whether we do this because we are self-employed or we want to brainstorm before our “team” session, the methods are still the same.
Taking a few minutes each week, and using the above tips for brainstorming, can do your focus a world of good. Your goal here is to reflect on the challenges you are facing, goals you need to reach, communication and marketing tools you would like to review, avenues to consider for an upcoming project, or whatever is necessary to move you forward.
Write down your ideas, even if at first they do not make sense. Include the “why” to each: why the idea is important; the “how”: how it will be achieved; the “who”: who is involved in case you need additional help; and the “when”: when the idea(s) need to be implemented.
Write down your goals, including the smaller ones to reach the larger goals. And mark your deadline for each goal.
Brainstorming can be viewed much like an artist in front of a blank canvas. The artist might have some idea of where he/she wants to end up, but sometimes in order to think beyond the initial image, the artist might haphazardly slap the paint on the canvas. And he keeps slapping until he sees an image form in his mind. From there, he knows how to continue.
Sometimes we need to spout or write down haphazard ideas until we see what we were trying to find. Keep sharing the ideas and eventually a distinct image reveals itself.
That is what brainstorming is about. And that is why you need to do it on a regular basis.