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Brainstorming doesn’t fix problems

by Scot Herrick on November 20th, 2006

I don’t know about you, but I love to brainstorm ideas. Big ones, small ones, ideas that will help a company and ideas that will help me. Ideas, though, are just the beginning of a process where we have our ideas translate into something that is finished.

The brainstorming role, then, is to come up with innovative ideas. But brainstorming doesn’t fix problems; the brainstorming is used to look at a specific problem in different ways.

When the brainstorming is done, I like to select three good ideas or approaches to the issue being brainstormed. I rank those ideas from one to three and then start with the first. The reason I like three ideas is that if the first doesn’t work out, I can go on to the next. It gives me a feeling of choices still existing out there.

Depending upon the idea selected, the next big hurdle is to lay out a plan to implement the idea. The plan could be very simple — exercise for 30-minutes a day on the treadmill starting tomorrow — to something exceptionally complex such as buying a company.

If the plan is a bit more complex, I like to lay out a few things ahead of time to make sure I can tell if the idea and plan is working:

  • Defining what the idea, fully implemented, would look like
  • Defining some measurements around the current and future state so I could see some difference as I move along the plan
  • Define a pilot that could be implemented much quicker than something long term. This is to allow me to “fail fast” and test the implementation or the idea itself.

Brainstorming is great, but it doesn’t get you to anything different than what you have now. By taking the best ideas and then developing a plan to implement them, you take what you learned in brainstorming and will be able to transform it into what you wanted it to be.

POSTED IN: MindMapping, Staying Sane, Meeting magic, Cube life, General work pimps

2 opinions for Brainstorming doesn’t fix problems

  • harrowdrive
    Nov 21, 2020 at 4:37 am

    I find the GTD maxim of “what’s the next action” works brilliantly when when you are staring at a mad jumble of ideas. Just pick out the real things to do from the pile and get on with them.

  • Scot Herrick
    Nov 21, 2020 at 9:10 am

    This is true. There is also a perspective that the ideas are all part of something that will take more than just one thing to do and is consequently a “project” in GTD terms.

    I’d be curious — how often do people use brainstorming to come up with one action to solve a problem? I’ve always thought of brainstorming to solve something that was more complex.

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