We’ve all heard the expression, “Let’s think outside the box.” But when a manager opens a meeting with that statement, is it really conducive to generating new ideas? No, not in my experience. Here’s how to brainstorm business ideas more effectively.
Effective Brainstorming Starts With the Right Participants
In addition to being a sales coach and author with B2B Sales Connections, I also was Volunteer Co-Run Director with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure for many years. Every year, all the Run Directors from across Ontario would gather in Toronto to plan and to share best practices. More importantly, every year, this group of passionate volunteers would find new ways to inspire me and teach me lessons that make me better. This year was no different.
Not All Participants Are Willing
The last session bright and early on Sunday morning was on brainstorming. To be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to it. I've been to a number of these 'no idea is too stupid to share' sessions in my career. Besides, my mind was on the speech I had to give as moderator of a Research Panel later on in the day. I was rehearsing the pronunciation of the medical terms in my mind, and wondering if I would have enough time to catch the train back to Ottawa afterward. Simply put, I was quite distracted and I finding it hard to concentrate.
Find a Facilitator to Run Your Brainstorming Meetings
The brainstorming session was led by Marilyn Barefoot of Barefoot Brainstorming. I won't go into the details of her methods or how Marilyn facilitated the session, I simply couldn't do that justice. I will say I was amazed at the process and more importantly the great results she achieved from such a diverse group of people. The room was a buzz, the creativity was higher than in any other brainstorming session I had ever attended, and the ideas from the group flowed like a rushing river full of spring snow runoff!
What’s the first lesson to learn if you want to know how to brainstorm business ideas? You need a good facilitator to run your meetings. They need to be energetic, positive and creative. In fact, when I look at the ten qualities of a brainstorm facilitator, there is no doubt Marilyn had all of them.
How to Brainstorm Business Ideas? Get Rid of the Distractions!
What was Marilyn's key to such a successful session? We all got totally caught up in the moment! I didn't realize it at the time, but I forgot all about my speech, I was too busy playing with toys. Yes, I said toys. My mind opened up, and even I was surprised at the ideas and creativity that I had in me. Proof positive that when you get rid of the distractions, great things happen.
Remember Tom Cruise in the movie 'A Few Good Men'? In the movie, remember how he did his best thinking walking around swinging his favourite baseball bat? Turns out there really is something to that! So now, when I am brainstorming in my office, I grab an old cane of my dad’s and just start walking around with it. It is something that really opens my mind and gets the creative juices flowing.
How to Brainstorm Effectively for New Business Ideas
Do you need some new thinking to increase your sales? Are you struggling to find that perfect solution for your client? Are you looking for that next big thing to take your business to the next level? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Book time for your creativity. Actually schedule time in your calendar to do it the same way you would any other sales activity. Perhaps daily, perhaps weekly, just put it in your calendar as an appointment, and then make sure you keep it.
- Put your smart phone down, ignore those texts and emails for a while and just let yourself go. Get rid of your distractions so you can let the ideas flow. Marilyn had us play with toys, Tom Cruise had his bat, I walk. I am considering getting myself a yoyo too. Seriously. I will amaze you how these unfocused tasks end up giving you laser beam focus in the long run.
- You don't have to finalize your idea when you first think of it. Write it down, come back to it later, change it, build on it in your next creativity session. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that evolve.
- Your idea doesn't have to perfect before you start to implement it. You don't wait for every traffic light to be green before you back the car out of the driveway in the morning. No, instead when you see a red light, you adjust, the light turns green, and you move on. It's no different when you are turning your ideas into reality.
- It's better to have a few ideas done well than a bunch of ideas done half fast. After all, the only difference between a good idea and a great idea is implementation.
Brainstorming Should be a Planned Activity
Don't think there are enough hours in a day for you to book time for your creativity? Download 'How Sales Reps Should Organize Your Time' from the B2B Sales Connections Free Download Centre. Not only will it show you how you can make time to focus on what's really important, it will help you sell more as well.
As Napoleon Hill once said, 'Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes.' So pull out some toys, clear your head of distractions and go make it happen! More motivational quotes here.
How Sales Reps Should Organize Their Time (With Template and Example)
“… what I can tell anyone, is simply this – If you want to learn and understand sales, talk to Susan.”