In networking events and in social settings I generally meet entrepreneurs who have great ideas that are going to revolutionise the way we think about industry X. I also meet a lot of people who bemoan their lot in their business careers, and if only they had money, or a little time, they could have been Steve Jobs.
I see this same group of people return to their jobs and infect brainstorming sessions and company meetings by their constant claims on why something can’t be done, or how it’s already being done. These are classic antagonists who provide a great set of skills, if used at the right point in the developmental process. Just because something is being done, doesn’t mean it can’t be done better, or there is a group of people that is being underserved. I recently read an article, wherein the author offered the following advice, if you want to learn anything about business buy an iPhone on www.craigslist.com, then attempt to resell your iPhone on www.craigslist.com. (In China you would be better served to use www.taobao.com.) Pay attention to how you word the advertisement, what angles you take pictures from and what causes people to buy your product, and at what price.
When brainstorming internally, I like to apply this same approach to idea generation. I like to start with an activity that is already popular, and think about why people like it. For example, Hot Pot is popular because it can’t be easily reproduced at home, it makes people warm in the winter, and it allows everybody to try new things.
Now taking these elements I would apply this to a particular brainstorm and think about how we could incorporate these elements into our project. How could we take project X, and design it so that people have access to “try new things”. I find this approach helps the ideas to begin flowing and leads to more fruitful brainstorms.
The key to getting over the idea hurdle in brainstorming, is remembering you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. You just have to make the wheel better!