Solo Brainstorming

This post is about turbocharging my brain when I am finding creative solutions to problems or questions.

Brainstorming process empties your head of all existing thoughts around the subject, puts you in a creative “flow” state of mind and provokes new ideas around the subject. As outcome you will have both existing and novel ideas written down on paper for further use.

Brainstorming is a somewhat commonly used workgroup tool to come up with creative solutions f.ex when deciding on the features of a new product.

I tend to do brainstorming sessions alone to grab the details of the issue at hand and to assemble “the big picture” of them. In the past, I have had brainstorming session two or three times a year. I have used brainstorming when I was searching for

  • improvement potential in my workflow
  • business ideas I would like
  • decision what do I want to do next year.

Outcomes of these sessions have been very inspiring. I have

  • identified bottlenecks and inconsistencies in my workflow
  • identified the “core” of business ideas that inspire me most
  • created a road map for my personal life

Brainstorming is easy and cheap

You’ll need

  • cozy, well-lit atmosphere
  • pen
  • empty paper sheets
  • 1-5 hours of time
  • optional: pens in second and third colour
  • optional: something to drink and eat

As for the atmosphere, I have had sessions in a comfy meeting room with big windows in after office hours tranquility as well as in a private booth in a nice cafe. In the latter option, I just made sure that the booth was off the main traffic flow path and that I got the feel of privacy.

Typical brainstorming session

The main thing in solo brainstorming is to write until your head is empty, and then write some more.

I always start out with empty paper sheet in front of me. I write down the “ultimate goal” on that sheet. Ultimate goal has been “to find the PINK COW”, “to get the big picture of things” and “what do I want to do in the next three years”. I deliberately didn’t use the word “achieve” in this context as achieving is the natural consequence of doing the things I am most motivated to do. The word “achieve” would put me in a too much goal-oriented state of mind. Hence I am trying to find out the things I am most motivated doing (with the “ultimate goal” visible in front of my eyes and hopefully subconsciously influencing my cognitive processes).

Then I write one relevant question as heading on one sheet of paper and start answering the question with keywords or concise sentences. It can be any question as it is only the starting point. I tend to list the keywords with bullet points leaving some space around them so I can add comments later on in the process. When my train-of-thought gets side-tracked, I take a new sheet, write down new question/heading and write new bullet points. The key is to write down EVERYTHING that comes to your mind, the obvious, the silly and childish and the impossible. No censorship is allowed here. This serves two purposes, you get these ideas out of your head, thus room for new ideas AND the writing process gets your creative juices running. The writing process is very important, and it’s going to be non-linear. You should see me frantically shuffling between sheets and scribbling down ideas and random notes about them.

Sometimes I consolidate the ideas under better fitting headings & cross over the ideas from my different sheets of “raw notes” during my session, sometimes in the end. I write until my head is totally empty. The longest session I had was 5 hours and the shortest about an hour. After the actual brainstorming session, I usually have 5-10 sheets of “raw notes”, where everything has been crossed over and consolidated to 3-4 sheets of transcribed, consolidated and tagged (tags are usually the questions I am answering) ideas with notes. The only thing left to do is to post-process the tagged ideas and try to compile a visual chart / road map or a to-do list out of them. If I am extremely exhausted I will do the post-processing the next day.

Do you use brainstorming for “mental zooming”, finding “the big picture”, “roadmapping” or for something completely different?

posted: 12 April 15
under: Lifestyle