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StrategyDec 18, 2019

5 Brainstorming Tips for the “Uncreative”

Conner Gregory, and Evangelina Wiens

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I wish I had thought of that!” or, “Am I just not creative enough?” Perhaps you’re asking the wrong questions.

The question isn’t who’s creative and who’s not; the question to ask is:

Why are you convinced you’re not creative?

Every person has the unique capacity to present creative new ideas, but most of us are lacking helpful brainstorming tools and habits. Practicing creativity needs to be an everyday experience, regardless of the time or concentrated energy left over from daily tasks. We want to prove to you that by integrating a few new habits into your life, you can also become a creative.

1. writing from your subconscious

Useful for creativity that requires accessing your subconscious ideas.

Our first tip has professional and personal benefits. When you wake up in the morning, do you check social media, look up the news, turn off your alarm? Writing from your subconscious is a method of free-form journaling that helps focus your thoughts and replace bad habits with ideas stored in our subconscious.

Accessing those ideas can be a challenge amid a demanding schedule and the sheer volume of information we’re required to process daily. Remember the last time you were stumped on a problem and you stepped away to, for example, go on a walk and had a lightbulb moment? Journaling right when you wake up and without any distractions leads to daily lightbulb moments; clearing your mind is a strategy to help you process all kinds of data overall.  

Writing from your subconscious also helps you navigate and process emotions. When it might be hard to identify why you feel a certain way, this form of brainstorming can lead you to the root cause. The trick is to keep a notebook and pen by your bed so you can immediately write for five to 20 minutes in the morning about anything and everything on your mind. There are no rules, editing grammar, or distractions allowed. Read here for more specific details on how it works.  

2. morphological analysis      

Useful for creativity that requires a comprehensive evaluation of feasible options.  

If you’re at all familiar with the tech industry, you know how frustrating it can be to discover solution dependencies that force you to restart your process from step one again. The problems we aim to solve are seldom one-dimensional, with each component adding its own challenges to the problem at hand.    

Morphological analysis is helpful when you must keep track of several primary variables and develop independent solutions. Below we have a simplified example of a “morphotype,” the primary tool used in morphological analysis. 

In this example of which type of business to start, you could begin by creating an exhaustive list of various types of goods to sell. If you pick clothing, then move on to create a list of target demographics. In this case, we will select millennials. Next, select a store location. You can see that each selection builds off the previous one, so you can easily see the effects of implementing a new idea. Typical morphotypes are far more complex than this example, but the process makes planning for a new idea far less burdensome.

3. rapid prototyping within design sprints

Useful for creativity that requires fast proof of concepts.  

Picture this: In a board room one day, the founders of a startup meet to talk about how they can innovate. Months and half a million dollars later, they release an app. The beautiful app the team labored over is only being downloaded—and then deleted—by their supportive friends. Their mistake? The team had only studied how customers responded to current products and services, not their novel idea.

What’s missing in the traditional go-to-market approach is a chance to learn whether or not customers will actually use the product you’re pouring your money into and how to make an idea compelling to your potential users. Rapid prototyping within design sprints shortcuts this traditional, expensive process and produces tangible, proof of concepts that provide immediate customer feedback. Everything in a design sprint is time-boxed and includes exercises that require teams to look at scenarios with a different point of view.

Contrary to the C-Suite think tank story above, this prototype at the end of a one-week design sprint allows you to simulate an end user’s journey and experience to gather real insights.     

Here’s how to have a working prototype at the end of one week.

4. role storming

Useful for creativity that requires  freedom to challenge widely accepted ideas.

Don’t let prevailing opinions and personal reservations stop the spread of new ideas.

Role storming  helps mitigate people’s self-consciousness. Each person takes on a new, assigned identity before the brainstorming session begins. For example, assigning a role that represents a customer who isn’t a very skilled driver would allow the assignee to present an idea for parallel parking assistance without being embarrassed for asking questions or presenting ideas that could be viewed as a reflection of their own parking ability. Any negative sentiments toward another person’s thoughts can always be blamed on the “devil’s advocate” role.  

One way to implement role storming would be to write down roles on slips of paper and put those names into a hat. Brainstormers could draw their roles and announce them to the team and then step into character for uninhibited ideation.

5. paradigm-preserving  vs. paradigm modifying

Useful for creativity that requires consideration of core processes and new opportunities.

Our final brainstorming tip is useful for ideas ranging from incremental to radical changes. The paradigm preserving (PP) vs. paradigm modifying (PM) framework categorized ideas based on relationships between elements in four categories of refine, extend, redesign, and transform.

This brainstorming method is useful when the subject of your brainstorming efforts has an existing structure, and you need to decide how your newly generated ideas will leverage, or not leverage, that structure. The typical PP vs. PM chart is shown below.   

For example, a large company may want to improve the execution speed of their marketing campaigns. A potential path is outlined below:

  • Refine: Consolidate existing marketing tools

  • Extend: Research and select additional resource and campaign management tools

  • Redesign: Define an integration plan of new tools into the current system

  • Transform: Utilize analytics to measure impact, customer sentiments, and determine new campaigns

The results show incremental and radical impact.      

your turn

While there are considerable roadblocks that can disrupt the brainstorming and idea

generation process, as this article demonstrates, there are also a number of frameworks that empower people to bypass these roadblocks. From writing from your subconscious to paradigm preserving vs. paradigm modifying frameworks, ultimately, divergent idea generation before convergent solutioning helps to unlock greater creativity and strategic thinking. We hope this article gives you the next steps to be proactive about brainstorming and idea generation, whether you’re working in product or application development, ecommerce, analytics, big data, or the daily brainstorming grind.     

Every day, Credera helps people brainstorm and turn great ideas into measurable business value. For example, we’re helping a fellow Omnicom agency who specializes in cultural intelligence generate ideas and actually translate them into ROI. What started as an excel template turned into a market sizing application tool that helps our clients address assumptions in idea generation and bring new products to market. Ideas and innovation can come from any level in an organization; for example, this was developed through an intern’s experience (Curtis Harrison) and a team’s collective effort (Cameron WeinertBrad Krumwiede, and Molly Legband). Reach out to us at findoutmore@credera.com if you’d like to talk more about these and other ways to solve business challenges. 

While there are considerable roadblocks that can disrupt the brainstorming and idea generation process, as this article demonstrates, there are also a number of frameworks that empower people to bypass these roadblocks. From writing from your subconscious to paradigm preserving vs. paradigm modifying frameworks, ultimately, divergent idea generation before convergent solutioning helps to unlock greater creativity and strategic thinking. We hope this article gives you the next steps to be proactive about brainstorming and idea generation, whether you’re working in product or application development, ecommerce, analytics, big data, or the daily brainstorming grind.

We’re here to help you from the ideation phase all the way through the execution phase as a local, full–service business consulting firm in Denver, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, New York, and across the U.S. Visit our website to learn more about how we have gone above and beyond to help clients innovate in tech, strategy, operations, and more.