Brainstorming sessions are a big part of running a small business.  While ideas can come from literally nowhere, you can't rely on strokes of genius to develop your company.  You need a concerted effort toward generating those thoughts and ideas, which is where brainstorming comes in.  What you need to do is make sure that those sessions are more than just sitting down and thinking, that there's a process behind it. Here are 5 ways you can do that:

 

  1.  Write Things Down

 

When people think of brainstorming, people tend to imagine rooms filled with people discussing thoughts and ideas with each other.  While that can certainly be true, that isn't only the case.  Sometimes, there's only you.  Sometimes, there isn't even any verbal communication, at least at certain parts, since talking things out might keep people from thinking well because their thoughts are led somewhere else by the discussion.

Whether alone or with a group, some time should be spent just writing ideas down.  This leaves everyone alone with his or her thoughts, free to pursue them to their natural conclusion.  Often, this results in more ideas as a whole, and a discussion wherein everyone has something thoughtful to say.

 

  1.  Utilize the SWOT Method

 

The problem with many brainstorming meetings is the lack of structure.  Just sitting around thinking isn't going to work, not consistently.  Thoughts must be guided from them to be consistently productive, which is where the SWOT method comes in.  It involves looking at something through its strengths, weaknesses, the opportunities around it, and the threats involved.

Analyzing an idea through these traits, whether it's what direction to take the company in or how to innovate your product, can help galvanize any thoughts and considerations about it.  It helps to list things down to make the idea's traits much clearer and easier to process.

 

  1.  Find the Right Questions

 

Sometimes, you can get focused on finding the answer that you may forgo figuring out if you're asking the right questions.  It's like looking for the cheapest plane ticket you can get, and buying one that goes nowhere near where you want.  Before you go trekking for an answer, you have to make sure that you're asking the right questions.

Getting the right questions down should be your first priority at every brainstorming meeting.  Make those questions as specific as possible.  Don't just ask how you can raise profits, ask how you can sell more of your premiere product over the holiday season given your current budget.  The more you narrow down the question, the more effective it will be at guiding the conversation.

 

  1.  Utilize a Mind Map

 

While some brainstorming meetings involve organizing everyone's ideas into a coherent discussion, others will involve merely managing your own thoughts.  This is important.  As the small business's owner and leader, people will look to you to guide the discussion.  If you can't do that, nothing will come of those group encounters.  Worse, you'll have trouble coming up with solutions the company can use.

Creating a mind map will help keep your thoughts in order.  It's essentially a diagram.  You start by putting down a central idea, and from there, branching out into other thoughts and concepts.  This will not only help you remember your ideas, it'll help show you how each is related, which can help clarify how things will work.

 

  1.  Switch Roles

 

While you will generally want experts in their fields to give you their opinion when the topic is in their wheelhouse, there are times when expertise can be blinding.  Experience can create habits and practiced thought processes that can limit idea generation.  Keep this from happening by letting people switch roles.  Switching roles and having someone pretend to be someone else in both responsibility and position can result in a wealth of new ideas that would've otherwise been smothered.  Just make sure that everyone is confident in his or her temporary roles or it won't work.

 

Brainstorming is a valuable tool, whether doing it by yourself or with others.  Flashes of genius are fun and are the stuff movies are made of, but life isn't a movie.  If you want your small business to succeed, you need something more reliable and consistent.  Get to work on those ideas, and you'll lay down the foundation for a bright future.