Even in the most creatively booming of small businesses, there are times when you hit an ideas wall. The well of brilliant thoughts dries up – and it usually happens right around the time when you really need something innovative to come along. Don’t feel down – these moments of creative stagnation happen to even the best and brightest. If your company’s brainstorming sessions have been lackluster of late, pull from this list to give yourselves an exciting mental jolt.
1. Play the part
Instead of just talking about a problematic customer service situation, have some fun and role play it in front of the group. Even if it just starts as a way to mix up the monotony, you’ll be surprised at what new insights to the problem you can gain from “living” it.
2. Steal an idea
For brainstorming purposes only, feel totally free to borrow (okay, fine: steal) ideas from other companies that are doing something right. Take that idea and say, just hypothetically, how you would copy the exact thing for your business. While we obviously don’t recommend copycatting other businesses, the exercise is likely to illuminate some good, original ideas along the way.
3. Work backwards
The number one thing that hangs up brainstorming exercises is repeated, futile attempts to solve a problem. Well, obviously, that’s why we usually have brainstorming sessions to begin with. If you and your team feel like you keep hitting a wall, try flip-flopping your thinking: instead of trying to figure out the best thing to do, try and think of the worst. How would you get fewer clients and worse reviews? Highlighting the Don’ts might make the Dos stand out a little more clearly.
4. Target practice
When one person has an idea, have them stand up in front of the group and get peppered with rapid-fire questions from everyone else. Having to answer questions quickly will draw out more organic responses. This exercise tends to speedily move an idea from one form to another, with the end result sometimes being a solution to a problem you didn’t know you had, or a new direction you didn’t even know you wanted to go. And it’s high-energy fun.
5. Silent time
This exercise is the opposite of “Target Practice,” and appeals to people for whom standing in front of the group getting pummeled with questions sounds like anxiety-inducing torture. Have everyone sit quietly and write down their ideas on a particular topic. It seems simple, but not only does writing light up parts of the brain that verbal exchanges don’t tap into, but this practice will encourage less outgoing members of your team to contribute their valuable thoughts and ideas.
6. Team up
Give everyone in the group a piece of paper, and then pose a question or problem. Everyone gets 1 minute to write down a solution, and then they pass it to someone else in the group, who will get 2 minutes to read it and improve on it. Often we are able to see each other’s thoughts more clearly and critically than our own.