Guest Post: Creative Approaches to Brainstorming

Like the egg and the chicken question there’s no simple answer to the one about which came first the sci-fi novel or the science.  While Mary Shelley was obviously crazy with her mad idea that a scientist could actually build a human, at least she didn’t go completely crazy and suggest we might one day grow human organs in animals as spare parts.  Erm.  Maybe she should have.

There has, in fact, always been a fine line between the worlds of art and science and both have more in common than you might think.  While five centuries ago it wasn’t unusual for an artist to be a scientist, or vice versa, today the boundaries are less blurred; until now.  The University of Arizona has set up the Center for Space and the Imagination, which brings together scientists and novelists to pool their craziest ideas and then work out if they can be put into action.  Judging from history, most of them probably will.  So what, on a more down to earth basis, can you learn from creative types that come in useful in the more practical worlds of science, technology and business? Here are a few tips.

Ooh, look at that fly.

Doing nothing is the new doing something; no, honest, it is.  With recessions come a lot of spare time, even if that spare time is spent waiting for orders to come in.  One trick that most writers won’t let on too often is the one about all that time spent staring out of the window and/or lying in bed lazily watching a fly.  We don’t like to mention this stuff because people think we’re doing nothing, when actually we’re really busy.  A good example of how this can be very productive time comes from the moment Descartes came up with the Cartesian Co-ordinate system.  He developed the idea while lying lazily in bed doing nothing in particular, apart from watching that fly.  Simply sitting around musing on nothing in particular gives your brain space to be creative as, unless you’re in a coma, there’s not the slightest chance your brain is not thinking about something.  If you’re facing a problem it will be actively trying to solve that problem quietly in the background; leave it to what it does best and focus on something else, new ideas are best left to themselves and will come given time.

Timing is Everything

If you decide to be a bit more proactive on the brainstorming front it’s worth remembering not to brainstorm at the end of the day.  Any time post-lunch is not the most fertile time for most people.  Early morning brainstorming sessions are the most productive; if you’re a small solo-work-from home business get up early and brainstorm over coffee in your dressing gown.  This time of day is when your unconscious mind is still close to the surface and it’s the unconscious mind that’s the creative bit.  For office based businesses, plan brainstorming sessions for the start of the working day and for the best results don’t give advance warning; people caught on the hop when they’re doing something they shouldn’t be always come up with the most imaginative excuses, the same principle works for brainstorming sessions.

Although Location’s Important too

Apart from the pleasant surprise of an impromptu early morning brainstorming session for you staff, another useful technique is to get out and do something less boring instead.  Brainstorming sessions can be conducted in the office, but actually getting out and about going somewhere new and seeing or doing new and interesting things tends to give you a new perspective.  Writers in particular like to get out and about to find inspiration, but it works in any field.  It doesn’t have to be a team building event, just hold a meeting somewhere fresh.  Depending on your industry you could try and find a venue that’s relevant or failing that just pop out of the office and go for a coffee.  As they say, a change is as good as a rest and it often invigorates you and your teams’ minds.

Nobody thinks outside the box when they’re stuck inside it; brainstorming sessions should be held in the most creative way possible and taking a leaf or two out of the processes used by artists and writers can help to create brainstorming sessions that have results.

Author Bio

JonJon Yeung is a freelance writer and enjoys writing on Technology, Entrepreneurship, Business and lives a Savvy lifestyle. He writes about software products for businesses (in particular Intuit products http://www.intuit.co.uk). He also provides tips for small businesses.