I love to brainstorm.  I like it when my co-workers and I are trying to resolve an issue and we get together and start throwing out ideas, building on each suggestion until we come to a solution.  I’m going to miss that.  In order to recapture the creativity, I want to share how to generate ideas on your own.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small amount of money if you make a purchase using this link.

What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a great way to generate ideas—especially a lot of ideas, in a fast amount of time.  It works best when you’re in a group of people, all suggesting ideas to solve a problem.  The concept is that no idea or suggestion is wrong, there is no criticism or editing in a brainstorming session.  The first plan of business is to generate as many ideas as possible.  There are even different ways to accomplish this.  Possibly one or 2 scribes can write down every idea that is shouted out or have everyone put their ideas on sticky notes and then place them all on the wall.  The whole process is meant to be fast and fun. Only after all the ideas are generated does the evaluation process begin.

How to Brainstorm Alone

Here are two ideas for brainstorming alone.  The first is to do a variation of a group brainstorming session and the second is to do mind mapping.

Brainstorming Session Variation

So, exactly how do you brainstorm when you’re alone?  How do you get the insight that so many different personalities generate?  You can try this variation.

  1. You’ll need 3 to 4 (or more) different colored Post It Note Pads.  I prefer the 3″ by 3″ ones, because they give you just enough room to write out an idea, but not so much room that you start to add in details.  Details come later.
  2. You’ll also need a timer.
  3. Write down the idea or project or concept that you need to solve for onto a large piece of paper and tape it to the wall.
  4. Set the timer for 5 minutes and start writing out your ideas on one pad of sticky notes.  One idea to a sticky note—no editing or correcting of anything.  When you’re done, place the sticky notes on a wall or board.
  5. Then set the timer for 5 more minutes and grab a different color pad of sticky notes.  This time, assume that you dislike this subject, maybe you’re a little snarky and all of your suggestions should come from that point of view.  It’s ok to write down things that shoot this project down.  No criticism of your ideas….remember?  When you’re done, place all those stickies on the wall.
  6. For the next 5 minutes, continue as someone who thinks the project is brilliant and doesn’t think it can fail no matter what idea is suggested.
  7. Keep going until you run out of different colored sticky pads or characters to embody.  How about your mother or your father tackling the problem?  How about Iron Man or Wonder Woman?
  8. Now that you have all these different ideas, you can try moving them around, putting them together, using them as a starting point for a completely different idea.

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping is a fun and very visual technique for brainstorming.

  1.  You’ll need a large piece of paper and several colored markers or pens.
  2. Start by turning the paper sideways (landscape view) and then write your problem that needs solving in the middle of the paper and circle it.  (If you have a picture of the problem, you can use that instead.)
  3. Then select a different colored pen and draw a branch or pathway out from the circle and write an idea on it.  As an example, if I created a mind map for blog posts, I’d write blog posts in the circle in the middle.  Then use different colored pens to create branches or pathways for midlife, trying new things and creativity.  From each one of those, I’d create smaller branches with different ideas for specific posts as you can see in the picture below.  (The picture below was created using an online Mind Mapping tool.)  Take each branch out as far as it can go.  And don’t worry, you can always come back later and add more.  For instance, under trying new things I first put down Taking first solo trip.  Then I created another track and put down Hiking Mt. Washington which made me think that under solo trips I should include travel options for singles.  (And if you’re thinking those would be interesting posts to read, look around the blog, they are all here.)
    mind mapping on unfoldandbgin.com
  4. Mind maps are not linear, so what you write on one branch can lead to another smaller branch off the same line or can make you jump branches and write something completely different.  For instance, in the above example, Hiking Mt. Washington, it might remind me to add a link under Midlife for meeting new challenges in my 50’s.
  5. Have fun with mind maps.  The lines in a mind map don’t even have to be straight, you can curve them around and even circle them back .  And, if you’re not so much into writing it out on a piece of paper, you can use the above tool instead.


Tip to start your Brainstorming session

Feeling rusty?  Not sure if you can come up with one creative suggestion, never mind 20 or 30 different ideas?  Feel like too much is riding on the ideas that you might generate?  Let’s shake out the cobwebs and have fun by using the below ideas to brainstorm with.

What tools do you need to survive a Zombie Apocolypse?
How many ways can you think of to remove all the items in the Game of Operation, without using tweezers?
Fun Band Names

I hope you have some fun with all of these ideas.