The more the better
In previous posts I’ve talked about the importance of first assembling a large number – and more importantly a large variety – of ideas, comparing it to breathing or panning for gold. The central idea is that it is impossible to pick a winner and enter contestants at the same time. You must diverge – assemble a large variety of ideas, and then converge – settle on an idea to try.
The divergence step, often called ideation, is critical whether you are looking for an idea on your own, or in a team. In fact, even if you are part of a team, research suggests that coming up with ideas “together alone” is better than the original form of brainstorming.
Brainstorming is a group creativity technique popularized in the 1950s in which the group is encouraged to spontaneously suggest as many new ideas as possible. The problems with this technique is that only one person can speak at a time and those that go first tend to dominate the discussion.
Verbal brainstorming groups have been found to have significant production losses relative to the same individuals ideating alone (Paulus, Paul & Kenworthy, Jared. (2018). Effective Brainstorming).
Brainwriting, on the other hand, lets all participants take some time alone to write out their ideas without first being influenced by others. Then once all the initial ideas are out in the open there is hope that some ideas will inspire new, better ideas.
The takeaway is that even in group ideation, there is an advantage to first ideating alone.
Furthermore, there are plenty of times when I and others need to come up with ideas on our own simply out of necessity. Sometimes we need to do a first try to come up with a concept worthy of asking for a team to be assembled, and for solo entrepreneurs, they often have no choice.
Ideating on your own then, is a valuable, foundational skill for us all.
Ideation is a skill
Whether staring at a blank document at your desk or a the pack of Post It Notes you’re always given at group ideation sessions, your assignment is to come up with lots of diverse ideas. It is daunting to many, because ideas are all, at first a fantasy. As adults we have all been conditioned to stay grounded in reality. Freeing our mind to find twenty ideas knowing at least half of them are probably crazy (and at best some of them are so crazy they just might work) is not an easy task.
Download a free printable guide to idea generation
I’ve prepared a free guide to producing more ideas than you thought possible to initiate the innovations you need in your job, your business and your life.
Click here to get your free downloadable guide to the 7 Powerful Idea Generators, which includes seven idea generation techniques with examples involving Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Delicious!