How to think differently to solve those elusive problems

When stuck for an idea on how to solve a particular problem, people often go down the route of a brainstorming session. Now there is certainly nothing wrong with this, however, from my experience most people don’t tend to get the most out of what is a useful exercise. 

So here are 9 tips on how to use brainstorming sessions to problem solve with success.

Tip #1 – Try mirror brainstorming

This is a good technique to help see things from a completely different perspective. For example, instead of asking “how do we improve customer satisfaction”, ask “how do we make our customers dissatisfied?” By asking such a question, you may generate insight that you might otherwise have not.

Tip #2 Set objectives

Ensure you and everyone involved knows why you are doing the session and what you are trying to achieve. This sounds like common sense, and it is, but it often gets ignored.

Tip #3 Get the timing right 

Set a good time to do this. Research suggests that 10am is when humans are at their most creative and sessions after lunch should be avoided.

Tip #4 Keep the group size small

This speaks for itself, but a large group can often cloud the issue at hand and lead to more questions than solutions.

Tip #5 Have a warm-up

Begin by having a relaxed atmosphere and don’t be afraid to laugh. Allocate a bit of time for some warm-up thinking, like a quiz or a quick discussion on something trivial and unrelated. This will help relax the mind and help unburden it from any pressures which may keep it from thinking freely and creatively.

Tip #6 Record those thoughts

Ensure every idea is recorded, even ideas that sound silly. Quite often it is the silly ideas that can lead to greater things. Silly ideas also relax people and they help to make more introverted participants feel more confident in their ability to participate.

Tip #7 Don’t stop

Do not stop to discuss and critique ideas, just let them flow. Do not stop to dismiss ideas at this stage. And, importantly, do not stop at the first great idea.

Tip #8 Cater for differences

Encourage ideas to be shouted out AND written down, to cater for different

personality types. Give people a bit more time to think, some will be quick off the mark, and others will take longer to warm to the task in hand.

Tip #9 Post brainstorming session

The brainstorming process does not stop when you have left the room. Once you have recorded all the ideas during this session, you need to do something with them. Don’t be forced into rushing full steam ahead with the thoughts. Give ideas time to soak in and to blossom.

Write up all the ideas and have these displayed somewhere everyone can see them and be reminded of what was discussed. Agree a time limit that these ideas will remain visible – maybe a week - and during that time allow more ideas to be added.

Soft thinking will naturally follow, and this often serves as a platform for some of the best ideas.

Thereafter, you can then agree a method of working through all the ideas and determine which ones should be focused upon and prioritised. Some people are more intuitive and can spot the good ideas; others will prefer more of a process. A good tip is to simply ask “how, when, who, why, what, what if and where”

against each idea. You can even look at the opposite of each idea and see where that takes you.

You’ll soon begin to generate a picture of which ideas should be focused upon and don’t forget to refer back to your original objective about what you were trying to achieve in the first place to ensure the ideas achieve that goal.

I hope these have helped. Problem solving isn’t always a quick or simple process but as an adviser this is what you do on a daily basis. Have fun with it, embrace your experience and remember that no idea is a bad idea – unless you tweet it to the world after a few too many drinks before it is fully formed…

This article was first published by Mortgage Solutions.

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