Here is a big secret I am about to share about brainstorming and new idea generation. I am not talking about linear progressions or line extensions of known ideas. They are as easy as saying “make the red toy the color pink to attract more young female buyers.” But rather, how do you consistently generate really new ideas?
The First rule is that you don’t go to any store and see what is on the shelves. I have seen so many design presentations of firms doing this. I called it line extension presentations. Arrays of taking existing things and twisting one element with a new technology or gizmo to make the people in charge of the distribution channels jump up and down and say “genius! We will make zillions!”
I am talking about NEW ideas beyond extensions. The process of creating a new segment, market or industry itself.
This is the area people bring us into. They know putting the idea into the mainstream organizational development would probably not work because of the bureaucratic structure, or, the idea had the risk because it was new of high failure potential. We are looking for new ideas and paths that could change the path of a company revenue and profits streams.
What is the secret?
Actually, now that I think about it, there are two things you need to do.
The secret is to take an idea and work it. When you have a group of people thinking about it, you will find most people come up with 3-5 ideas or solutions before they run out of steam. Some in the group might get to 10-12 and think they have something new. Surprisingly, this seems to be the norm of most groups I have brainstormed with in a normal corporate setting.
I wish the aforementioned were not true, but most of the in-house people are not hired to create new things. Usually they are to manage things and are not interested in creating more work for themselves – even if their job is to increase the company bottom line. I am flashing back to walking into a large financial institutions internet brainstorm room in the mid 1990’s and I thought I had died and gone to heaven with the layout – yet, in the entire creative space were a few chairs huddled around a taped up and one sheet of paper was taped on one tiny section of a wall. That is how the employees used the brainstorm space.
I am not really sure when the idea of mind mapping took off in the United States or Europe. The process was something I never had to learn to do. You can go back to when I was a child and you will see these spatial diagrams all seeming to branch off all over in seeming unrelated type batches of functions, colors, designs, methods of use, (insert a long list of what is possible with an idea) and don’t edit it discount anything.
This is called a mind map. There are many groups using this tool in software form, and of which I think the mainstream has dumbed down the idea and what is possible to allow managers and executives to quantify on paper the elements of a PowerPoint presentation in a nifty graphic outlay. They take the power of a tool and dilute it down to a level that makes a creative sad.
The truth is I didn’t really even know this software existed for quite some time. Perhaps because I did the process naturally, and every idea started with paper and a pen, it was not a big issue for me to have this tool – I was more interested in 3d modeling and animation to generate a moving concept of shows and dynamic things. To me that was the harder of the two processes.
I was in Nashville and some graphic artists asked me if I wanted to get involved in mind mapping and my actual quote was, “my old roommate in Sausalito offered to donate his mind and we were going to try to map it with electro stimulation to come up with the base of how the brain works.”
Yes, they looked at me like I was nuts, but I was telling the truth. They were talking about the relatively hip and trendy graphic tool of mind mapping. I was talking about actually mapping a human mind.
How does it work? Get an idea, stick it in the center of the page and just start working possible designs, solutions, benefits, needs, wants, and dreams all around the idea. Fill up the page, make separate pages for each node you come up with (this is where the software is actually nice)
What will come out is usually your will see your initial ideas were the best right from the start. What gets interesting is if you simply do the secrete part I am about to reveal, you will come up with truly unique and new ideas, better, more innovative, fresh, and truly interesting.
Here are your two secrets.
The first - when you are given a problem – always imagine and think of the solution from the perspective of the actual user and work backward. What is the best product or service that actually will be the solution(s) to the problem. People used to ask how did I think when I hunted deer. “Simple, you think like a deer.” What you have to do is “think like the person using the product or service.”
The second - remember earlier when I said 3-5 thoughts were normal, and 10-12 were considered good for a brainstorm in a corporate environment? Do not stop till you hit 100. That is the secret. After 10, it will get harder, when you get to 60-80, it really will get much harder, but the last 20 are what will set you and your solutions apart in a new and refreshing way for clients or idea solutions. It doesn’t mean you are a super genius. It means you simply worked harder.
What happens when you get to 100? You probably have 15 paths you didn’t think about in the first 10-12 that have some great potential within them
Happy mining of ideas. Please keep these two common sense secrets…secret – do not reveal the mind mapping club secret handshake to anyone!