Brainstorming for one

How many of you have experience the dreaded ‘corporate brainstorm’? Horrible conference rooms with bare walls, fluorescent lighting, nasty coffee. The problem is that most of the time it’s not process based, it turns into a mad free for all where the loud shouty people throw their ideas at the wall and see what sticks. Introverts, who may have fantastic ideas are often scared to speak up, or just get talked over. Plus everyone brown-noses with the boss.

So here’s another way. Brainstorm by yourself.

Obviously there will come a point when you have to get other people involved, but to get your creative juices flowing, I like this process.  Just me and my computer, a big scribble pad, and lots of pens. As an example, imagine you’re trying to find a new name for your business or a new product. Here’s how it works.

1. Open your mind

Let your mind become a playground. Bounce random thoughts around. Put unexpected things together. Visualise. Try and think of things from another angle. Forget all constraints and be fearless. There’s no-one around to tell you that your thoughts are crap - so go for it.

2. Write down initial thoughts and ideas

Write down all the name ideas you already have in your head - even the ones that don’t feel right. They may inspire you later and spark a thought process that helps you come up with something amazing later on.

Then divide the ideas up into categories, e.g.

  • I love it
  • Meh, not sure
  • Totally insane

3. Remind yourself of the objectives of the process

Make sure you are 100% clear on the specifics and purpose of the brainstorm e.g. to find a name that works in every country in the world. While it’s good to let your mind go wild, be clear what you need to ‘get’ by the end of it.

4. Who does this idea need to appeal to?

Yep, it’s that old chestnut again - target audience. It crops up everywhere. So when thinking about new names, there’s little point looking at say, HipHop song titles as a source of inspiration if you’re looking to name a new product for the over 60s. So be clear about this. Also, it gives you clues where to start looking for inspiration.

5. Go 'Googlestorming'

What did we do before Google? Who cares, it’s here and and it’s fantastic for brainstorming. So if I was looking for a new product or business name, here’s what I would do:

Open up the thesaurus and make lists of words. So let’s say you’re looking for a new name for a cupcake shop, I might start listing loads of synonyms for cakes and pastries and sweet things.

Look at pictures. So for a cupcake shop name, I might look at pictures of  - parties, celebrations, children's parties. Something in one of those pictures might spark an idea.

Look at glossaries of terms. Every market sector has its own lingo of fun words and phrases. That could yield some ideas. I once got a cracking branding idea for a client by looking through a dictionary of old Lancastrian phrases and not only found them the name they eventually chose; it became the basis of an entire marketing strategy.

6. Sometimes clichés can be good

In a brainstorming context, some clichés can yield some excellent fodder to play with. So back to the cupcake shop - we’ve started down the route of celebrations and party things, so you might play with phrases such as: 'Have your cake and eat it',  'Let them Eat Cake', 'If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake', 'A piece of cake', 'Nutty as a fruit cake',  'Shut your cake hole', 'The Cherry on the cake'.

7. Look at popular culture

So continuing the cupcake shop theme: I might look at movies, or TV shows that have some kind of cake involvement, e.g. The Bake-Off, Layer Cake, One Cake Two Girls. Book titles can yield results, so can song titles - so I might peruse iTunes.

8. Get a red pen (or whatever bright colour you choose)

So by the time I’ve done this kind of thing, I probably have piles of paper with notes, and I use Evernote to store saved save web pages and clipped pictures. For those of you who don’t know me, can I just say that Evernote is the best thing ever, and I’m always banging on about it. It’s the only online thing I’ve found that organises my creative thinking progress.

Anyway, the next thing I do is go over all the crazy stuff I’ve written down and saved, and start crossing out the totally nuts stuff that has no potential to go anywhere. Be ruthless. Be quick - instinct is your best friend here.

Then I look at what’s left. Rank them in order of what I like best - then pick of say the top 3, and go through the whole process again.

Explaining a creative process isn’t easy, so I hope that helps. Do some brainstorming. It’s great fun and the best bit of my job.


jackie harrisComment