Brainstorming Your Way To Success


Brainstorming for Your Business


We often worry that our business may be becoming outdated or stale. That our competition has better ideas. And we wonder – why didn’t I think of that? Why can’t I be creative?


Creation takes imagination, inspiration, understanding, insight, and even a little serendipity.


Although a few people can easily tape into their creativite side, the majority of us have a hard time doing that. We have to work at it. We have to take time away from our normal activities, and we have to be in the right mindset. It’s not so much about finding more answers as it is discovering the right questions. Here’s what I mean.


In an article by Hal Gregersen published in the Harvard Business Review, he concludes that instead of better answers, we need better questions. He explains that the “Underlying the approach (to brainstorming) is a broader recognition that fresh questions often beget novel – even transformative – insights”. He goes on to say, “Brainstorming for questions rather than answers makes it easier to push past cognitive biases and venture into uncharted territory.”


To be a success in business, you need to be an expert in your field. We obviously can’t know everything about everything, but we need to know A LOT. The more we know, the better we can be at answering questions. However, once we think we have all the answers, that’s when our businesses can start to become stagnate and uninspired. By having what we think are all the answers, we stop asking questions.


Brainstorming from time to time is important. One of the goals of brainstorming should be to shake up the status quo and reexamine what we think we know. Brainstorming should not be a solo activity. The “two heads are better than one” motto is appropriate here. In fact, three or four would be even better. It is important to NOT just sit down with others in your field for your brainstorming session. Afterall, they have all the same answers, that like you do. They have the same cognitive biases that you have.


Instead, invite people who may have some interest in your profession, but know little about it. Go as wide afield as you can. The less they know about what you do, the greater the difference their perceptions will be from your own. By bringing in these “outsiders”, with different perspectives, you’re more likely to get questions that aren’t mired in the “that’s the way it’s always been done” conviction.


Again, according to Hal Gregersen, after you’ve briefly explained the challenge you’re facing, be sure to allow only questions in response – no answers. Again, you’re not looking for quick, easy answers. You can come up with these on your own.


The only thing that is going to spark real change in your business is questioning what you do. However, with all the accumulated knowledge you have, that’s difficult to do. This is why reaching outside of your circle is critical. Be sure to pick people who you know to be intellectually curious and have been known to challenge the status quo.


James Thurber, American cartoonist, writer, humorist, journalist and playwright said, “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers”.


This week’s questions to ponder are:

1.   Who do you know that would be good for this type of exercise?

2.   What would be a challenge or problem you would put to the group?