I’ve met very few people who have the talent for coming up with a brilliant idea on the fly. For communicators who maybe write well, for instance, but don’t consider themselves particularly creative, frustration can set in easily when they need to come up with a new idea or approach to a new communication or campaign.
That’s when brainstorming can be an invaluable technique to flesh out that winning concept or help us work through its execution. There are many ways to brainstorm – some are obvious or old-school techniques, but others are methods we might not have thought of before. In an effort to help our Creatively Corporate readers stay on top of their game, I’ve included some suggestions in today’s post.
Get Into the Head of Your Audience
Sometimes the answer is right in front of you. As a basic foundation to your communications, you should already know your audience. Regularly survey your customers or employee audience and find out what’s on their minds – what’s keeping them up at night and what problems can you solve for them? In addition, what way do they prefer you talk to them (email, blog, newsletter, video, in person, etc.)? Gathering this information allows you to think like those to whom you’re trying to communicate. From there, you can better clarify your vision and customize your approach.
I’m betting that almost all of us have heard of mind mapping, but it’s good to remind ourselves that the tried and true methods can be our reliable go-to options. For those who might not be familiar with mind mapping, the idea is that you take a piece of paper, and write your goal in the center, then begin branching out and connecting it with different subtopics. Create as many subcategories as possible as well as ideas that spring from them. It’s great for creative folk who want to visualize concepts and find a commonality between ideas while having the freedom to get more innovative as you develop your subtopics.
Being a contrarian can be your best creative technique. Whatever task your charged with, think about what everyone will typically do in your situation, and think of opposite solutions. This might be an elementary example, but let’s say you’re thinking of a new way for your CEO or other senior leader to discuss a new initiative: You could do an email blast or intranet news article, but if you want to really get the attention of your audience, maybe a video or a podcast will better grab their attention and make them more engaged.
Bring People Together
Brainstorming is something you can do alone, but it can be a lot more productive and fun in a group! When people come together to collaborate, the creative energy that’s produced is tangible. Identify creative people in your organization and invite them to be a part of your brainstorm process. One of my favorite phrases is “You’re the average of the five people with whom you associate the most,” so become more creative by finding and working with more creative people.
I touched on this in a previous post about overcoming writer’s block: When in doubt, just write. Making yourself put pen to paper for five to ten minutes can do wonders. It can present ideas and content that you were sure weren’t there a minute ago. So just keep writing (now I have Dory’s “Just Keep Swimming” song in my head!). You’ll have something with which you can work. Just don’t worry about hitting a homerun at the start.
This is something to keep in mind all the time; not just when brainstorming. Be curious about everything. Ask questions and make a point to soak up as much information as possible. Curious people want to understand what makes the world work rather than just be an anonymous part of it. Ask why something is the way it is, and think about how it can be done better or differently. The more information you can gather, the more ideas you can bring to the table when it comes time to brainstorm.
Take a Break
When the brain gets tired, it’s not good for much, least of all new ideas. So when you’ve been at it for a while, take a break from brainstorming and do something else: take a walk, watch some TV, go on the interwebz and play some games. Give your mind a chance to relax and recharge. When you get back to the business at hand, you’ll find you have a new perspective and are more ready to think of more ideas.
Of course, these are far from the only methods, but they’ve been helpful for me and some of my colleagues. If you have some helpful ideas that might help your fellow communicators, please feel free to share in the Comment section!
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