How to Brainstorm: Generate the Best Ideas, Alone or in a Group!

Group of casually dressed business people discussing ideas in the office. Creative professionals gathered at the meeting table for discuss the important issues of the new successful startup project.

Brainstorming is a method of generating ideas and solutions; it can be of great use to students working on group projects or individual tasks.

People who know how to brainstorm possess a terrific tool for developing solutions faster and more efficiently If you have not used brainstorming techniques, check out these tips for your long term success.

Overcoming Your Fear of Others

When your professor assigns a group project or assignment, you will inevitably find yourself involved in many discussions and meetings with your team. You will benefit immensely from knowing some brainstorming rules. Here are some that can facilitate the process.

  1. Be assertive and unafraid about expressing your views, no matter how unrealistic or inarticulate. Get your ideas out there – they can be refined, discarded, or adopted later. Your first thought could be the best!
  2. Encourage every group member to take an active part in the discussion. This makes you look like a leader in the best way. Additionally, everyone’s participation will increase your group’s effectiveness in the long run. Caution: You might even be graded/marked on the degree of involvement of your entire team.
  3. If no one volunteers to write down every idea mentioned, do it yourself. Some notions could come in handy later – you can’t determine this initially.
  4. Avoid and discourage criticizing or ridiculing anyone’s recommendations. Such criticism may suppress participation and impair your group’s creativity.
  5. If the college setting is uncomfortable or meeting physically together is inconvenient, don’t allow this to inhibit your group’s effectiveness. Use Skype or Facebook to share ideas.

How to Brainstorm Alone

Although brainstorming is often thought of as a group activity, you can also use it for your own individual assignments. Try these strategies:

  • Whatever your topic, try to single out the main research questions you need, or want, to answer.
  • Write down all the ideas you have on this topic. Erase nothing, no matter how unconvincing. Document your supporting examples, or bolstering points, even the weak ones. This is like free-writing; give yourself a time limit and just write ideas down.
  • Make note of areas where you need to find sources or further data: These are your action items.
  • Examine your ideas from every standpoint: social, political, legal, economic, religious, ethical, literary, stylistic, historic or folkloric, etc.!
  • Set up your own suggestions as a “straw man”. Attack it, identifying its weaknesses, and strengths, and recording all this in writing.
  • Be the “devil’s advocate” by imagining others’ reactions to your arguments and supporting examples. Record persuasive counterarguments.
  • .Adopt multiple, even uncomfortable perspectives. Drill down in level of detail
    Ask ‘who, what, where, when, why, how?’

Follow-up Notes

Whether writing papers alone, or in a group, learn how to effectively brainstorm ideas and solutions. These techniques will help you confidently solve problems and write papers.