Effective brainstorming

Have you ever been faced with a problem at work that you just can’t find a solution to? Maybe you have asked your team for their input but your request has been met with awkward silences. You could describe this situation as a practice equivalent of ‘writer’s block’.

In this scenario, it may be time to put away the more formal methods of problem solving and to try brainstorming. The benefit of this technique is that it encourages lateral thinking in a non-judgemental environment. Too often, our thinking is blocked by the apprehension of being criticised, and this has particular significance if we are asked for solutions by our employer.

How can we encourage successful brainstorming?

Brainstorming can be performed alone or in a group. If working alone, make sure that you can work somewhere quiet and away from distraction. If you are making it a group exercise, ensure that you choose a time when as many members of the team can attend without being interrupted.

The most important part of brainstorming is to keep it informal. Present the problem and encourage everyone to contribute without too much prior thinking. Emphasise that no idea is ‘wrong’; suggestions can be as quirky and off-centre as they like. Dissuade immediate group feedback – good or bad – in order to promote a safe environment where nobody is criticised.

The focus should be on quantity rather than the quality of solutions; we want as many ideas written down as possible. Then, after the session has ended, we can consider each one and we may just spot an idea – or a combination of a few – that starts to open that door of resolution.

We all feel blocked in our thinking from time to time, and the more we try to fix it, the worse it often feels. Don’t be afraid to throw the rulebook out the window and get creative. It’s often the off-beat ideas that your clients will find the most personal and come to love your practice for.