Tag Archives: brainstorming

How Can I Reach Large Student Audience?

We are going to make international student brainstorming competition and the prize for winners will be more than 200.000 EUR. Do you have any idea how to reach large student audience with low costs? Of course we are going to contact universities and some student organizations, but we are also in looking for some other ways.


Money may be a good motivator, but also a theme that people care about to brainstorm on (“Global Warming”, “Increase in Cancer Rates”, “Increase in Divorce Rate”, “Reducing Homelessness”, etc.) Make the theme socially relevant to get people who are passionate to participate. Make the submissions visible so others can be inspired by others’ thoughts (which is what brainstorming is all about).

Improved Brainstorming With Introspection

The Thinker

Many people have been commenting about Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect:

“Brainstorming [is] used in nearly all of the world’s largest companies, nonprofits, and government organizations. And the reasons seem obvious… “The average person can think of twice as many ideas when working with a group than when working alone.”… But is it true?

In 1958… psychologists let groups of four people brainstorm about the practical benefits or difficulties that would arise if everyone had an extra thumb on each hand after next year. These people were called “real groups” since they actually brainstormed together. Next, the researchers let “virtual groups” of four people generate ideas around the “thumb problem”, but they had to brainstorm individually, in separate rooms. The researchers combined the answers they received from each [virtual group] individual and eliminated redundancies… They then compared the performance between real groups and virtual groups…

To their surprise, the researchers found that virtual groups, where people brainstormed individually, generated nearly twice as many ideas as the real groups.

The result, it turned out, is not an anomaly. In a [1987 study, researchers] concluded that brainstorming groups have never outperformed virtual groups. Of the 25 reported experiments by psychologists all over the world, real groups have never once been shown to be more productive than virtual groups. In fact, real groups that engage in brainstorming consistently generate about half the number of ideas they would have produced if the group’s individuals had [worked] alone.

In addition, in the studies where the quality of ideas was measured, researchers found that the total number of good ideas was much higher in virtual groups than in real groups.”

I’ve found that interactive brainstorming groups generally suffer from the “too loud, too fast” phenomenon.

Groups tend to be dominated by the most vocal people. When someone else is talking you’re trying to balance listening to their ideas and thinking about your own. Furthermore, “group extroverts” can be intimidating.

The goal of brainstorming is to come up with as many ideas as you can as quickly as possible. The idea is by working quickly, you prevent the inner critic from stifling a (part of a) new solution. This means that the group operates a certain speed (which varies during the meeting, but it’s the goal of the facilitator to reduce the “lows”). One speed doesn’t work for all, frustrating both the quicker and the slower thinkers.

As a result, “real” brainstorming meetings aren’t harnessing the full creative power of the group.

Virtual groups don’t suffer from “too loud, too fast”. It operates at your speed, and is much more comfortable. In a parallel virtual group, each member goes to a different location for fifteen minutes and writes down ideas, then combines them into a single list. In a sequential virtual group, each member thinks for fifteen minutes, and passes their ideas to the next person, who then adds their ideas to the list. Examples of this are online bulletin boards and blog discussions.

Does this mean that you should discontinue “real” brainstorming sessions? Yes and No.

Yes, stop holding the “too loud, too fast” classic brainstorming meetings. They can produce results, but disenfranchise many people. Business management holds to look like they’re doing something (“Hey, we care enough to hold brainstorming meetings”).

No, don’t lose the human-ness of the meetings. The goal of the group is to continue to evolve into a community, working together to solve problems.

How To Brainstorm By Yourself

If you don’t have the luxury of others to brainstorm with, one technique you can use is mind mapping. Mind mapping, used for centuries, is a graphical way of recording, organizing, and displaying your thought process. It is a simple and fun tool for doing solo creative problem solving.

How To Make Your Own Mind Map

  1. Gather a bunch of (colored) pens and paper. Alternatively, you can use one of a myriad of mind mapping software packages. For me, pen and paper is more portable and directly tactile. Others may prefer using software to record their thoughts. The software packages’ resulting mind maps can be much more legible.
  2. Identify the core word (or phrase) you want to mind map.
  3. Write the core idea in the center of the paper (you can write ideas in the mind map using words, icons, or small pictures – whatever is most natural).
  4. What immediate ideas spring from this core idea? For each idea, draw a (colored) line radiating from the core idea and label the line with the idea. The colored pens can be used to color code each of these branches.
  5. Looking at each of these newly written ideas, what ideas spring from these? Continue branching organically, allowing yourself to bounce from one idea to another, remembering to maintain the color-coding of the core branches. Key ideas/milestones may be further indicated with small pictures.

Example Core Idea: “Business Networking Opportunities”

Further Reading

An overview of mind mapping

A brief introduction to mind-mapping, written by a college guidance counselor, with emphasis on using mind mapping to help you find a job.

A free online mini-course on making mind maps

Tips For Brainstorming

“A group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous
contribution of ideas from all members of the group”
— Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Brainstorming is one of many creative problem solving techniques. While you can use any size group, we believe it works best when done in a facilitated group of 5-10 people. The more diverse the group the more diverse the input. The group members don’t need to be experts in your field. In fact, they don’t need to know anything about the problem topic at all!

Step 1: Define Your Problem

You need to get really clear on what your problem truly is (and is not). Keep asking “why?” until you feel that you’ve identified the root of your problem. For example, if your problem is “I need more money?” Ask “Why? To do what? And then what?”. Once you have the problem, state the brainstorming topic as:

“I would like to _________ but it’s difficult because ________”

The more time you spend in defining your problem the better the results will be.

Step 2: Uncover Solutions

Now is when the group starts contributing ideas. The group should some pre-agreed rules. Here are some:

  • I will listen to others’ ideas.
  • I will not be attached to my idea.
  • I will attempt to find the good in someone else’s ideas.
  • I will give myself permission to be wrong, insane, and stupid.
  • I will respect that the person with a problem is best judge as to quality of the idea.
  • I will not tell someone else what to do, I will only offer suggestions.

Make sure you have someone responsible for recording the meeting (that person should definitely not be the person who’s presenting their problem).

Brainstorm for a set time. Initially, a lot of obvious ideas will be suggested. After this initial flurry, things will quiet down. Be patient. Risk saying something that makes no sense to you. The better ideas usually arrive after people have relaxed and listened to others.

Step 3: Evaluate Solutions

Here is where the solutions that were suggested can be evaluated. What ideas are the most exciting? If any of the ideas seem incomplete, go back to step 1 and re-brainstorm.

Remember that brainstorming can be an intensely intimate encounter. Thank everyone for their contribution.

What’s Your Niche?

Do you want to make it easier to find people who want your product or services? Instead of saying, “This is great for everyone”, you want to say, “This is great for you.” This article details how to simply and clearly define your narrow offering.

Definition. A niche is a group of people with a narrow common problem. While you could have a niche of people who want money, a better niche might be “people who want money to pay off credit card charges” (and perhaps, “people who want money to pay off credit card charges incurred by purchasing clothing”).

Benefits. From your client’s perspective, a niche means that you understand their common problems. From your perspective, niche prospects are easier to find and you can charge them more for your specialized offerings.

Danger. Some people think choosing a niche means that you’ll miss potential clients (who would benefit from your offering but aren’t in your niche). You can’t be all things to all potential clients. If you must, pick more than one niche.

Classify. What’s common about your existing clients? What group of people would you like to work with?

Brainstorm. Niches are adjectives. Look through lists. What are people searching for online?

Let’s take the example of Peter, who’s a life coach. While he can help anyone working on their problems, he likes working with men. Men with what problem? Having recently been divorced, he understands the process and wants to help men who also have recently been divorced. He could even specialize further (men who have been divorced because their wives fell in love with someone else, etc.). He’s now a specialist, and his marketing materials would target his demographic.