January 18, 2022

Episode 22: Efficient brainstorming

A key skill to change your mindset is to be good at brainstorming new ways to see your situation. Most people get brainstorming wrong, way wrong. Listen to hear my tips on how to efficiently brainstorm and solve your, or your company’s, challenges.

What you will discover

  • The one mistake that makes you miss all your greatest ideas
  • The 3 steps to efficient brainstorming
  • How to structure ideation to actually cover new ground
  • How to organize group brainstorming that actually innovates


Mixed and produced by Adrien Grenier

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Episode Transcript

Hi, and welcome to the Excellent Rider podcast. I'm Mélanie, I'm a certified life coach and I specialize in helping people like you get things done, find ease and motivation again and get unstuck when it feels like you've lost your mojo.

This is an episode that I didn't really plan. I just thought about it when I was recording the previous episode, which is that I need to tell you how to brainstorm efficiently. I need to tell you how to find ideas when you feel stuck. And when you feel that you have tried everything and because it just a, it just kills me the way people brainstorm.

It is so not efficient. You're most people brainstorming exactly the opposite way. That is actually effective to find greater. So, what I'm going to teach you today is you can use this for your own brainstorming when you want to solve a problem that you have, but you can also use it at work when you're brainstorming with others and you're trying to find a solution for a difficulty that your company is facing.

So there are three rules for great brainstorming and we're going to go through them in order. So the first rule is: whenever you're brainstorming. Doesn't matter if you're doesn't matter what topic you're brainstorming about.

You need to do it by yourself alone before you do it with others. And that's also, that's typically a for brainstorming with your team. I have been in so many of those completely inefficient brainstorming meetings, where basically you gather people in a room and then you're like, oh, let's brainstorm.

And then we should brainstorm into a group. And I am guilty as charged. I have done so many of those meetings myself. I have organized that and it doesn't work because basically if you want to brainstorm efficiently, you need to gather your own thoughts. You need to have an idea. What I mean, you need to let all of the ideas that you have come to the surface, and that is very difficult to do when you're discussing with others.

First of all, usually because you have some sort of a time constraint, but second of all, because when you're discussing with others, you end up going in one direction. And so you completely forget all of the other directions. So when you're brainstorming, the first rule is you start by giving yourself some time to gather your thoughts and to brainstorm by yourself and to figure out all the ideas that you have around the topic.

That's the first rule. Once you have a huge list of your own ideas and you feel that you really, you know, pressed your creativity and you are dry, you have no more ideas. That's the good time to go and speak with others, because then you're going to be able to confront your ideas with others. And in the confrontation of ideas, it will make new ideas emerge.

They will have had ideas you have never thought about. And by listening to their thoughts, you're going to be able to have new ideas and new creativity about the things. But you need to come to the meeting with something. It's like apick nick. It's very bad form to come empty handed. You need to bring something.

So start brainstorming by yourself. That's rule number one, super important. Don't skip it. And, by the way, if you're brainstorming by yourself, if it's, for example, something that you, you want to solve, I don't know, in your private life, or some goal that you feel shy about sharing or whatever, do your brainstorming on your own, but then you can also go and present your ideas to other people because they will also help you see other angles and see other idea that you had not thought about.

So, talk to your friends, for example, organize a little brainstorming session and you tell them I would need a little hand on my thing, and then you come prepared. You ask them to brainstorm by themselves and then you all come together and you have a brainstorming session. It's quite fun actually.

You should try that. Rule number two. And that's probably where people go really wrong in brainstorming, is that you shouldn't censor your ideas. So once again, we have this idea that we should open our mouth and the first thing that should come out is this brilliant idea, fully structured, coming already into the world.

That is not the way it works. When you brainstorm, you're going to have tons of really crappy ideas before you have a good one. And the efficient way of brainstorming is that it's done in two phases. The first phase is you open up and you go as broad as possible, and you gather as many ideas as possible on as broad a range as possible as you can around your topic.

And once you have all of these ideas on paper, then you will want to narrow down and to analyze which of those ideas are actually feasible or good or whatever. And we'll look at this later, but when you're in this opening up phase, you really need to put all the ideas that come up to your mind on paper.

There is no bad idea. And the reason for that is that you need to have 1,000 very bad ideas before you're going to get a good one. The image that I like to have which helps me a lot in my own creativity is that you need to imagine that your creativity, the part of you that is very creative,

it has some really, really good ideas. But it doesn't completely want to share those really great ideas with people who are not going to appreciate them. So what's your creativity does is when you tell your creativity, hello, it's time to have great ideas, come up with all the great ideas. What it does is that it sends a lot of crappy ideas first as test balloons.

And it looks at how you are managing them. What do you do then with those ideas? How do you treat them? And if every single time one of those test balloons comes out, you are there with a needle and you prick the balloon in a very mean way. So you shoot down the idea, you say, oh, but that's not feasible or that's ridiculous.

Or that would never work or oh, I'm ashamed of having such a bad ideas or I really have crappy ideas today. Your creativity will keep its beautiful, really smart ideas for itself. It's not going to send them out in a world in which they will be torn down. So if you want your creativity to come up with all the great ideas, you need to treat respectfully every single test balloon that it sends out.

And it's going to send out a lot of test balloons before it sends out the really good ideas, because those really good ideas they're really precious to your creative part. All right. So think about it that way. So it means when you're brainstorming, just try to really find all the ways that you can do a thing.

Just some of those ideas are crazy. Some of these ideas are completely unfeasible. Some of these ideas are really bad and you know it. Some of these ideas are like.. It doesn't matter, just write them down because when you do that, what you do is that you you're priming your brain for having ideas.

Your brain is like a gigantic diesel engine. It needs a lot of time to warm up and when it's warmed up, then it will start to have the great ideas. And also there's another thing that happens when you are, when you're brainstorming efficiently like this. You need to combine different ideas, to find a great idea.

So by having all of the crappy ideas, you're going to make it possible for your brain to combine several crappy ideas into a not so crappy idea. And once you have a not so crappy idea, you're going to have a wonderful idea.

I've been watching this documentary on, I think it's on Disney plus, about the Beatles. It's called Get Back. And it's basically a bunch of studio sessions that were recorded and that were never released before. And so you get to see the Beatles working together and creating together some of the songs that have become completely iconic.

And so you hear them creating Let It Be and you hear them creating Get Back. And what's completely fascinating when you have the benefit of hindsight because you know what the song ends up sounding like. And when you watch them having those ideas and they go into completely wrong directions and they start, they hump things and you're like, no, not that note, please hit that other note.

That's what's going to make the song so great, but you just see them exploring and that's, what's wonderful about it. And it's because they are exploring like this because they are just throwing out random ideas into the group and into the open and those ideas start to sound and then the other from the group pick up on it and bounce on it and make it bigger and greater and more wonderful, et cetera.

And they discard a lot of stuff. This is how they actually create the wonderful song that we love in the end, right? So, so do the same with your own ideas. Let your ideas cross-fertilize each other. That's the word we used to use a lot in the corporate world. Right? So let your ideas make babies basically with each other.

And that will create a lot of more baby ideas and you will have tons of ideas to pick from. So that's what you're aiming for. You're aiming for quantity. Don't care about quality at this stage. You just want quantity. You won't have all the ideas out on the table. So that's rule number two, do not censor ideas, do not shoot them down as they come out of your mouth.

Aim for quantity, aim to write down 1,000 bad ideas. You can use the concept of epic fail that I explained in the previous episode and try to have as many ideas as possible because by having all of those bad ideas, this is when your creativity will release the wonderful ideas that it has in store, and it has some wonderful ideas in store, I can promise.

And then rule number three, and this is also super important, is bring some structure to the brainstorming so that you actually cover new ground. Challenge your brain to think out of its usual patterns. And you cannot do that by just telling your brain, please think out of your usual patterns because it will not happen.

So you need to bring some structure to force your brain, to systematically explore areas that it does not normally explore. And the way you do that, it's to use a concept that has been developed by an American coach called Byron Katie. And that concept is called turnarounds. So a turn around basically, it's the opposite of something. And I'm going to explain exactly how it works. So the way you use a turnaround is that you're going to start by writing all the obstacles that you see, all the problems that you have right now.

So for example, that let's say that I'm dating and I'm trying to find a partner. Maybe I'm not going to give you all the reasons cause there were a ton when I was dating, but let's write a few of the reasons that I believe I don't have a partner yet.

So the way to do it, to be very specific, is you ask yourself, why do I have a problem? Why do I have a crisis I want to solve? Why don't I yet have the goal that I'm trying to reach? And what are all the obstacles that are preventing me from already having this in my life?

So in the example of dating, what are the reasons that I don't yet have a partner. Why, what are all the reasons that I am single? So I'm not going to write all the lists because there were a lot. I believe there was a lot of reasons why I didn't have a partner and why I was going to remain single for the rest of my life, but I've just taken a little selection.

So the first obstacle that I had, the first reason I thought I could not find a partner was that there are zero nice and available men. And another reason was I'm always attracted to bad boys.

And the third one is my parents criticize my choice of partner. So my parents are absolutely not the type to criticize my trust of partners, but I needed a sentence with that structure. And you will understand why in a second. So that's why I chose that one, but let's say it's a real obstacle. Let's say that I really believe that my parents criticize my choice of partner and that makes me very reluctant and very picky.

Uh, and very, not open at all to meeting people because I really want to have a guy who meets a, so many criteria so that it makes it impossible. All right. So I have those three obstacles. There are zero nice and available men around me. I'm always attracted to bad boys. And my parents criticize my choice of partner.

And now I'm going to find the opposite. So turnarounds are very strict. There's different types of turnarounds. The first type of turnaround is the turnaround to the opposite. So I'm going to find the opposite of each of those sentences. So to find the opposite, what you do is either you put a "not" in front of the verb or you remove the "not" if there is one. So there are zero nice and available men around me: there are not zero nice and available men around me. I'm always attracted to bad boys: I am not always attracted to by boys. My parents criticize my choice of partners. My parents do not criticize my choice of partners. Very easy. You just put a "not" in front of the verb or you remove it if there's already one there.

Another way to do a turnaround to the opposite is to find a verb, which is the opposite of the verb that you have. So for example, I'm always attracted to bad boys, it could be, I'm always repulsed by bad boys. Or my parents criticize my choice of partner: my parents compliment my choice of partner.

You can also do the opposite of different parts of your sentence. And there I will let you become familiar with the technique and I will let you make your own trial and errors, but basically you can figure out what is critical in the sentence. And you can try to turn this around. So for example, there are zero nice unavailable men around me.

Zero is kind of a critical information in the sentence here. So I will say there are hundreds of nice and available men around me. I'm always attracted to bad boys. The term is bad boys. So I'm always attracted to good boys is also a way to turn this around. My parents criticize my choice of partner.

I don't really see a different opposite that I could use there. So let's keep it like this. So that's one of the turnarounds. It's the turnaround to the opposite. Another type of turnarounds is the turnaround to the others. You're going to take the subject of the sentence and the object of the sentence, and you're going to reverse them, only when they are human beings. Right? So there are zero nice and available men around me, the subject and the objects well, yeah, they are not a human beings. So the sentence doesn't count, but for example, I'm always attracted to bad boys.

The subject is me and the object is bad boys. So I'm going to reverse them in that sentence and it becomes bad boys are always attracted to me. And then the last sentence: my parents criticize my choice of partners. I will reverse it and it's going to be, I criticize the choice of partners of my parents.

Or my parents' choice of partner, right? So I reversed the subject and the object. And then the third type of turnaround is the turnaround to the self. And this is where I'm going to take every single human being in the sentence. And I'm going to replace them by me. So, there are zero nice and available men around me.

I'm not gonna do that because men, in this sentence, it's just a category of object let's say. Not in real life. That's not what I mean, but grammatically, it's not somebody who is doing something in the sentence. The second one, I'm always attracted to bad boys. I replace myself everywhere, but I will keep the adjectives.

So I'm always attracted to the bad side of me. And then my parents criticize my choice of partner. I criticize my choice of partner. So that's the turnaround to this. And the last type of turnaround is a turnaround where you're going to replace every single subject and object by "my mindset". And you test, you know, you're going to see what works, what doesn't work. So for example, there are zero nice and available men around me.

There are zero nice and available mindset around me or in me. Right. So my mindset, if I re reword the sentence a little bit, it becomes "my mindset is not nice and available". The second one: I'm always attracted to bad boys. My mindset is always attracted to bad boys. And the last one, my parents criticize my choice of partner: my mindset criticizes my choice of partner.

So now I have a long list of different turnarounds. So I have all the sentences that I came up with, which are basically the opposite of the original obstacle that I had in mind, somewhere or another. And my job now is going to find all the ways each of these turnarounds could be made true. So I am not saying that these turnarounds are true.

I'm just trying to figure out how could I make them happen in reality. So I am still in the brainstorming expansion phase, so I'm not going to shoot ideas down. I'm just going to find ways to make this opposite of my obstacle true. Because the basic idea is that if my obstacle is white, basically, if I can make it black, I have succeeded.

Right. So I have reached my goal. So I'm going to try to find all the ways I could make each of the turnarounds true. So for example, if I take the turnaround, I'm always attracted to good boys. What are all the way they could make this happen? I take again, the example that I was telling you in episode 20, if the obstacle is a mountain and you want to get to the other side, don't shoot down all the ideas that you have about getting to the other side, because they're not feasible.

Just write them all down. We are still in the extension phase. So, if you want to get to the other side of a mountain, all the strategies that you could have in order to get to the other side of the mountain: climb over the mountain, you could fly over it. You could go around the chain of mountains.

You could dig a tunnel under the mountain. You could maybe send somebody else to the other side. Maybe you could find somebody who's already on the other side. So these are all the different ideas. So we are not trying to figure out whether those ideas are feasible or not. Maybe you don't have the money to fly over the mountain, or maybe you don't have the time to dig a tunnel, but you're just writing those ideas down anyway.

Remember your creativity checks how you treat ideas before she sends you the good ones. So you just write down all the ideas that could make the the turnaround true. And by doing that, what you're doing is that you're forcing your brain to go and explore some areas that it has literally never thought of because it is stuck in its current way of thinking.

By doing that, you're going to find a huge number of ideas, which are actually going to inspire you. Maybe not all of them, but several of them are going to inspire you. And you're going to figure out many new ways and many unthought of before ways to tackle your problem or to create a great product or to solve your problem or to do whatever it is the thing that you're trying to do with your brain.

So the next step is that by now you're going to have a huge list of ideas of what you could do in your situation. If you've been serious about this, you probably had a long list of obstacles to start with. For each obstacles you had at least, I don't know, between four and 10 turnarounds.

And for each turnaround, you have a bunch of strategies. So you have in a very systematic way found tons of things that you could do in order to reach your goal or solve your problem. So you have a huge list of ideas. I'm talking hundreds and hundreds of ideas. So now that you have these hundreds and hundreds of ideas, now the expansion phase of the brainstorm is over.

And now you can start to narrow things down and now you can start to evaluate which of those ideas you think is a good idea, is feasible within the resources that you have, whether you like it, whether you think it's something that you're going to enjoy doing, like all of the criteria that you might have in order to select which ones are the good ideas.

So, if you're doing this in a group as part of a company, for example, it works exactly the same way. You ask everybody to first brainstorm on their own and then come to the meeting with their obstacles and turnarounds and ways to make the turnaround true. And then they can share with each other. And this will create more ideas.

So don't shoot the ideas down and then you can ask everybody to grade each idea from their expertise. So for example, the finance guy will rank the cost side. The engineering girl will rank the technical feasibility. The lady from aftermarket will rank the aftermarket implications of each idea, et cetera, et cetera.

And by doing this, you're going to be able to grade each idea and give a score to each idea. And rank them and you're going to have the really wonderful ideas that are going to emerge. And if you do that, if you're really systematic about it, you're going to find some seriously good ideas.

So I remind you that the different steps, the first one is that you start by brainstorming by yourself. The second one is you don't shut down the ideas as they come out. You write everything that comes out of your brain, you just write every single thing. And then the third one is you bring some structure. And the structure here is the turnarounds, so that you can have some seriously good ideas and you can explore so that you can explore areas that you would normally not explore.

And when you do those three steps, this is when you find the really, really, really great ideas that are going to help you reach your goal. And then you need to go and test out all of those ideas or many of those ideas and fail massively, as I have explained in the previous episode. And, and I'm really curious to know how it goes.

So mail me and let me know at melanie@excellentrider.com and tell me how your brainstorming went. I'm super interested. If you found this episode helpful and you want to help the podcast, well, the best way to do that is to share it with other people. And you can do that by either leaving a review on a listening platform, or you can tip a friend about it.

And I'm very grateful when you do that, because it really helps me and it encourages me and it makes me want to do many more things. Thanks a lot for listening today. And remember that even when you can't get yourself to do what you want, even when you're stuck in negative emotions and unpleasant thought loops.

And even when you don't believe it, especially when you don't believe it, you're not broken. You're not flawed and you're not jinxed. You're just learning how to be an Excellent Rider. There are no bad horses. Only untrained riders.

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