An Easy Brainstorming Tool

We've all been invited to brainstorming sessions where you walk into a board room with white walls a big conference table and probably a chart pad or white board on the wall.  The host then says we need BIG ideas  - okay, go...crickets...crickets.  Someone finally speaks up - throws out an idea and it is immediately shot down for a million different reasons. A few more ideas might be tossed around, but it all ends the same - everyone is bored and frustrated and no one feels like the problem was actually solved.  If you are lucky the host tried to be "creative" and might of brought a few Nerf guns and possibly some other toys to make everyone feel even more "creative." No matter what it ended in the same way a few ideas, nothing anyone is that excited about and everyone goes back to their daily lives thinking I hate brainstorming.


What if everyone had been asked to do some homework in advance of the brainstorming session.  Before you think to yourself the last thing I need is more work think about this...if you were planning a family vacation and you sat down at the table with the group going and you started talking you'd hear all the same stuff. The kids yell out the names of amusement parks or ads they've seen on TV.  If there are Mom's in the group they'll say, "NO KIDS," take me somewhere quiet with wine (wait did I say that out loud)! But, what if you brought to that meeting books about travel, maybe a map of the United States or you called up some friends and asked them for the top 2 places they'd ever visited.  What seems easier now?  Sitting down with the group with a blank piece of paper or sitting down with the group with stimulus to help come up with the best vacation ever? 

Research shows that by not doing stimulus mining in advance of a brainstorming session you decrease your odds of success by 70%. People often think, I know my industry, I know my competitors what else could I possibly need to know?  Actually, a lot.  To have the ability to create truly game changing innovation stimulus mining is a must. It is very important to take the time and spend the time to learn more -- it isn't optional.

When prepping for a brainstorming session there are three types of mining:


Almost all companies and people do classic mining.  What is going on in my market?  What are my competitors doing?  Do my customers have challenges that need to be solved?  


When mining for technology, wisdom and patent mining are important.  What is the latest academic research in my industry?  Do we own patents that can help my challenge?  Does someone else have a patent I can purchase that might help me?


Where is the future of my industry?  What are other industries doing that might help me?  I work in pharmaceuticals and have a foaming issue - has anyone in the beverage industry solved a foaming issue?

The next time you are challenged with creating new ideas or you invite people to a brainstorming session -- challenge yourself and them to do some homework in advance.  You might be surprised at the results when you use this brainstorming tool. 

To make it even easier each week the IE team posts Spark Decks right here in this blog...all of these are created from the mining we do to help you spark new ideas.