Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Practice Makes Perfect - How Brainstorming Improves Creativity

Most people, when they hear or think of creativity, think it's only important to people like musicians, artists, photographers, etc. But that isn't the case. Creativity is essential to each and every one of us. Thinking creatively allows us to find new ways to solve common problems, among many other things. If you want to know how to boost your creativity, one of the best ways is to practice and improve your brainstorming skills.

What do you think of when you think of brainstorming? More than likely the first thought that popped into your brain wasn't anything to do with using it as a technique to hone in on your creativity. Usually brainstorming is associated with business related things. Remember those terrible meetings where everyone shouts out ideas and someone jots them down on a whiteboard only to erase them later for being unusable? Brainstorming doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it can be a fun way to work on developing your creative side.
Those awful meetings did get one thing right: the first thing you need to do is let go of the self-criticism and self-judgment. Whether that be about creativity (I don't have a creative bone in my body) or brainstorming (I don't know how to brainstorm) or both, you have got to let it go or you're not going to have an open mind to be able to think clearly. Once you've done that you can move into the brainstorming phase.

For your actual brainstorming session, grab a piece of paper and pen and get ready to draw it out. Something like a simple mind map will work. That might mean drawing a big circle in the middle of the page and then connecting smaller circles to that. The big circle is going to be the main focus point (for example a problem you currently have) and then all the little circles connected to that one are going to be the different ideas/solutions as to how to work that problem out.
Not a fan of mind maps? Try just making a big list of ideas. Some people call this a “brain dump” and it works exactly the same way as a mind map. The idea is to get as many ideas out of your head and on to the paper as possible. Don’t think about whether a specific solution will work, just write it down. You’ll go back later and refine them.

One fun thing to experiment with is using a timer. Set your kitchen timer for 5 minutes and aim to get as many thoughts and ideas down on paper as possible. This race against the clock can help you stop criticizing and instead focus on quantity, which isn’t something we do naturally.
Don't spend a lot of time on this process. The idea with brainstorming is that you want to do it fairly quickly and generate as many different ideas (solutions) as you can within that short span of time.  Once you've done the brainstorming picture (mind map - whatever you choose to call it), then you can narrow down all those different solutions you listed until you get down to the top two or three that you think will work best.
As you begin to practice brainstorming, you'll find that it gets easier and easier for your creative side to come out and that's the goal. So, set aside some time (it doesn't have to be a large chunk of time, even 10-15 minutes) each day to brainstorm and it will help you develop more of your creativity.

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