Most of us have a love-hate relationship with brainstorming. It’s so rewarding when you come up with a great idea that you want to tell everyone about it. But it can be just the opposite when you are not able to generate new ideas.
We are all programmed in different ways, brainstorming techniques that work for one person may not work for another. Although it is questionable whether creativity can be taught or not, you can encourage and encourage your creative thinking.
In this article, we are going to look at several proven brainstorming techniques to enhance creativity.
Use this guide to find a new approach, generate new ideas when you have a creative block, or simply to find new techniques. There is no right or wrong technique, you can use the method that works best for you. But if you are looking for inspiration, these are the points that we are going to cover:
- What is brainstorming and when should you use it?
- The Golden Rules of Effective Brainstorming
- The need for a mindset change in brainstorming
- Group brainstorming vs. Individual brainstorming
- 9 brainstorming techniques to generate better content ideas
- Which brainstorming technique works best for you?
What is brainstorming and when should you use it?
What is brainstorming? And when might you need it as a marketer?
According to MindTools :
Brainstorming combines an informal and relaxed approach with problem solving and lateral thinking. Encourage people to generate thoughts and ideas that might be a bit absurd at first. Some of these ideas can become creative solutions to a problem, and others can lead to more ideas. It helps people to overcome creative blocks, taking them out of their comfort zone.
Brainstorming is a proven way to find creative ideas or solve a problem, either individually or in a group.
In the context of marketing, especially digital, it encompasses generating content ideas, be it to write an article, create a digital PR campaign, or create content for social media.
Brainstorming is about finding effective ways to generate ideas.
The Golden Rules of Effective Brainstorming
Brainstorming is not a rigid method for generating ideas. On the contrary.
In reality, it refers to the process of using a technique to generate ideas that you would not have achieved otherwise. In a way, it can be thought of as forcing creativity.
However, creativity cannot be forced, especially under pressure. Therefore, you should follow the golden rules of effective brainstorming:
- The more ideas the better. We are usually used to doing more with less. But when it comes to brainstorming, the more ideas and inspiration you collect, the more chances you have of turning them into something incredible.
- There are no bad ideas. Do not judge the opinions of others or refrain from putting your own ideas on the table, even if you think they are poor. Someone could spot the loose ends and develop the idea to create something new.
- No idea is too ambitious or crazy. It is always better to downgrade an unrealistic plan than to scale an idea.
- At this stage, no idea is final. The best ideas are generated through teamwork, when initial concepts are refined and improved. Until this happens, all opinions must be taken into account.
Approach creative thinking with these points in mind and ideas can flow properly.
The need for a mindset change in brainstorming
Brainstorming effectively depends on your mindset and the approach you use.
Although some people believe that creativity is a virtue of birth, anyone can be creative. Even those who don’t think they are creative can have great content ideas. However, you need to be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and find brainstorming methods that suit you.
When we talk about brainstorming, most of us automatically assume a group of people sitting around a blackboard trying to come up with ideas.
It couldn’t be further from the truth. Brainstorming can be group or individual, and the traditional approach is rarely practical.
After all, very few of us can be creative on demand …
Group brainstorming vs. Individual brainstorming
Group brainstorming vs. Individual brainstorming is pretty self-explanatory, but there are no right or wrong ways to approach individual or group brainstorming.
You can brainstorm effectively and brainstorm ideas yourself; some people work better this way. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
However, one of the most effective approaches for most teams combines the benefits of both tactics. Starting with an individual brainstorming to generate the first ideas and then coming together as a team to polish and develop the final concepts.
9 brainstorming techniques to generate better content ideas
When looking for new content ideas, you will need to try different brainstorming techniques to inspire you and enhance your creativity. Although you can’t force it, you can use various methods to structure the process.
Here are 9 of our favorite techniques that we encourage you to try:
- Mind maps
Mind maps are often the starting point for brainstorming sessions and can be used in groups or individually.
Similar to word association, it is a flexible workflow that allows you to jot down your ideas, thoughts, and notes, starting from a central topic and looking for related subtopics.
The concept is easy to understand and follow:
- Start with a sheet of paper, whiteboard, or online mind mapping tool (like Lucid Chart).
- Put the central theme in the middle and write your ideas around it.
- Draw lines that leave the central theme and create at least four subtopics (for example, ideas related to the main theme).
- Delve into each subtopic with ideas that come your way. They can be headlines, more specific topics, interesting facts, etc. Anything.
Once you’ve completed the mind map, keep working on it for a set amount of time or until you can’t add more. Next, you should have a page (or whiteboard) with central ideas that will inspire you to create new content.
- Content inspiration archive
Good ideas come when you are inspired.
A proven method for generating new content ideas on your own (to refine later in a group session) is to take a look at your inspiration archive. It’s important to keep in mind that you need to build your inspiration archive over time, not the next time you need new ideas.
What is a content inspiration archive?
If you are not familiar with inspiration archives, they are basically a compilation of pieces of content that you find inspiring. When you start the brainstorming process, take a few minutes to look through your inspiration archive to gather ideas.
It is simple, but it works. It is an approach proposed by Mark Johnstone . Creating your own file is easy.
- You need to search for a site to collect the content. Pinterestis a great option if you want to save visual content, but you have other alternatives, including com or simply Google Sheets .
- As you find engaging content, add it to your inspiration archive and grow it little by little.
- Before you start brainstorming, take a look at your inspiration archive and get to work.
- Gap analysis
There is a misconception that content ideas always have to be new and innovative, but it is not true.
If you are planning your content to create articles or pages that rank in search results, you should focus on identifying opportunities and outperforming your competition by adding value. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
If your goal is to drive organic traffic, one of the most effective ways to generate content ideas is to conduct a gap analysis.
John Reinesch has written a very good guide on how to ” Steal Your Competitors’ Traffic with Content Gap Analysis “, which shows you step by step how you can do it and how to identify keywords and opportunities for which your competitors are ranked and you are not. This Zazzle guide also delves into this tactic.
Brainstorming doesn’t have to be a super creative process. Typically you just need to collect the right data and turn it into good ideas.
- Method 6-3-5
If you want to conduct a group brainstorming session, but your traditional sessions are not productive, you can try the 6-3-5 method.
You may not be familiar with the process, but it dates back to the 1960s and its beginnings can be attributed to Bernd Rohrbach , a German marketer. The concept of the 6-3-5 method is to work in a group of six people in the same room. Here’s a breakdown of the process:
- Provide each participant with a sheet of paper divided into a grid like this one.
- In the first brainstorming (5 minutes) each member has to write down 3 ideas on the sheet.
- Next, each one passes their sheet to the person on their left.
- Each participant reads the ideas of the previous person and uses them to add 3 more during the second round of 5 minutes.
- At the end of the six rounds, you will have a total of 108 ideas. Some will be repeated, but don’t worry; the goal is to generate ideas and have a productive brainstorming session.
These ideas can be discussed as a group to refine and develop them.
- Bad ideas first
One of the great criticisms of group brainstorming is that participants often do not share their ideas for fear that others will think they are bad. Of course, there are no bad ideas when it comes to creativity. However, the imposter syndrome is real and not everyone is confident enough to share their ideas.
So why not break the ice and start coming up with bad ideas first?
It’s a proven approach (also known as reverse brainstorming) and can help you get the flow of creativity flowing. Starting with a round of bad ideas, you can go looking for better ideas and refining them.
Not only does this approach work to generate content ideas, it has even been used by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
But how do bad ideas turn into good ones?
- The pressure to come up with awesome ideas is greatly reduced.
- All members start from the same starting point, since they all have to intentionally search for bad ideas.
- It is a good way to build trust among team members.
- Create a comfortable space for good ideas to flow.
- Browse and search information
Sometimes creative thinking can be a tedious process.
As we’ve mentioned before, you can’t force creativity and it’s virtually impossible to come up with good ideas on demand. Even if you’re looking for ideas for simple jobs, like blog posts, it’s hard to come up with a brilliant idea in minutes.
So take a break from the creative side and spend time searching the internet.
Carry out a search on the topic that interests you and check out the news. You can use Google Trends to search for current trends.
Just be sure to take notes on the points that catch your eye. You can dig deeper into the topics and turn them into solid ideas using our Topic Research tool .
Enter a topic and take a look at the content ideas it offers:
- “Walk and Talk” Brainstorming
It’s no surprise that some of our best ideas come from taking a walk, showering, traveling, bedtime, or similar situations.
Although we cannot predict when we will have these ideas, we can try to replicate a relaxed environment and promote creative thinking. This is what we refer to as “walk and talk brainstorming.” Get out of the office and go for a walk, whether in a small group or even as a larger team. This brainstorming method is inspired by the increasingly popular concept of having meetings on a walk. Great managers like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg are in favor of this type of meeting. This article states that the reason why “walk and talk” brainstorming sessions are so effective is the following:
Nature and a change of scenery unleashes new neural connections in our brains, provoking new ideas and new solutions to problems.
– Marissa Levin, Inc.com
The next time you’re planning a meeting, try organizing a “walk and talk” brainstorming session with your team; You can also enjoy some fresh air!
- Quick ideas
Often times, one of the problems we have when brainstorming is that we try to find ideas that are too complex. So remove this barrier.
It is as simple as working individually or in a group with a set time (5 minutes works well) and writing as many ideas as you can in that period. There are no bad ideas and even if you write something that is not directly related to the topic, do not worry.
The goal is to generate core ideas so that you can then choose the best ones and refine them.
- Competitor analysis
Taking a look at the competition and knowing their movements is one of the best ways to start brainstorming around a topic. It may sound simple and may not sound like a traditional technique, but it is useful for two reasons:
- Few things can inspire you more than a piece of content that works well for your competitors. This is how we work.
- You can learn from their mistakes and their underperforming content and apply it to your own ideas. This way you will not make the same mistakes and you will be able to look for different alternatives.
Which brainstorming technique works best for you?
There is no right or wrong way to brainstorm, techniques that work for one person may not work for another, even if they work on the same team.
Some people work better individually and others when brainstorming in groups. Also, using different methods on the same marketing team can be very effective. Different people will generate different ideas just by changing the type of approach.
If you are having trouble generating ideas, try a new approach. Don’t settle for the technique you are used to. Innovate, try different things and you will get different results.
Runway bz is a leading SEO agency in Toronto, Ontario. Our expert SEO consultants can help you create an effective SEO plan for your business. Steve Young is our SEO Specialist, loves to write about SEO, Tech Gadgets and blogging tips at Techavela