For brainstorming to be successful, you have to suspend judgment and stay receptive. Seemingly unrelated ideas may lead to something great. Increase your creative yield by moving back and forth between brainstorming alone and brainstorming in a group.

Brainstorm Alone

It’s intimidating to approach a blank piece of paper or whiteboard, but you have to start somewhere. Write down a key word and riff off that. Let your mind move in random directions. Then draw connections with lines. Keep brainstorming until you have a messy web of concepts and relationships to explore. This is called mind mapping. You can get special software to do it, but paper or sticky notes will work just as well.

Then, Brainstorm in a Group

When you brainstorm with others, you get more gems to choose from—and someone else’s idea may spark even more creative ones in you. Be extra kind to the folks who have enough guts to put half-baked or embarrassing ideas out there. These risk-takers yield fresh insights. Treat every idea as valuable. Have someone facilitate and capture the ideas so the discussion can move at a fast clip (if it slows down, people will start to question and censor themselves). Or ask brainstormers to scribble ideas on sticky notes and post them on a wall. Sticky notes are the perfect brainstorming tool. They’re small, convenient, and moveable—great for collecting and organizing material. Limit yourselves to one idea per sticky note so it’s easier to sort and cluster thoughts.

Now, Brainstorm Alone Again

Take the seeds of ideas that came from the rapid-fire group session and do another round of quiet brainstorming on your own. This will give those latent ideas a chance to develop.

Go for quantity, not quality. You may work your way through five, ten, twenty ideas until you find ones that are distinctive and memorable. This is not the time to edit yourself. Even if an idea has been used before, keep it in the mix. You may later find a unique way of incorporating it.

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