Brainstorming. It brings fantastic ideas to the table. It opens minds to new products, new services, and new markets. And it's not used nearly enough.
Many obstacles get in the way of brainstorming, and for a myriad of reasons. For example, considering new ideas is often like sailing through "uncharted" waters. People unaccustomed to thinking outside the box may fear the risk of hitting an unseen object hiding just below the visible surface.
Add to that the possibility that new ideas might be mocked by others. Remember that Christopher Columbus was mocked when he wanted to sail across the Atlantic. (Good thing he got past that. More than five hundred years later almost everyone knows his name and what he did.) But even if new ideas aren't mocked, just overcoming basic doubts can seem insurmountable at times.
Another issue is that a lot of people don't like change. They'll throw up all sort of reasons why something won't work. Fear of potential doom stops many a worthwhile endeavour.
Many people also have a fear of failure. What if a new idea, once fleshed out and implemented, still falls short of expectations? Risk that brings no return can damage careers!
Further still, some don't like brainstorming new ideas because it makes them look as if they couldn't figure out solutions on their own. Therefore, any group-discovered solutions might make an individual look bad.
This all falls back to what I've said many times in the past: You go where you're focused. If you don't think it's going to work, you're right.
But . . . if you think it's going to work, well, you're right there, too.
Brainstorming capitalises on the human capacity to imagine; one idea inspires another, and the second idea sparks a third, and so on. The only danger that exists in brainstorming is the limits of one's imagination not letting you find the best possible action items.
One way to overcome these limitations is to get way out of "normal." A famous car company thought of new ways to improve suspension when they brainstormed how to make a car run smooth if its wheels were square. It's a wild approach, but it worked to find a better suspension system.
Another organization I'm aware of held a strategic planning retreat at a medieval living history museum. They opened the retreat by dressing up in medieval garb and playing a few ancient games, complete with helmets and foam armaments. Teamwork came together and they solved tough challenges they had never faced before. Then, when it came to the actual planning portion of their retreat, their minds were already out of the box.
Walt Disney was a champion of creative thinking. He challenged his people to dream up the most outlandish ideas regarding how to entertain their park guests. Then, after their minds were stretched, they were better able to identify fantastic yet truly do-able actions to make Disneyland a more memorable place.
What if you could re-recreate Disneyland? What would you put there? What experiences would you want your guests to take back and talk about with their friends and neighbours?
Now change those questions to your own workplace. What if you could re-create your workplace? What would you change? What would you eliminate? Why? What do you want your employees and your customers saying to their friends and neighbours?
Stretch your mind beyond that which is possible, and the impossible will make the possible seem much easier to do. Plus, don't be afraid to let things get hectic or frenzied. Great ideas can occur in near chaotic conditions.
Finally, reserve all judgment and make things fun. My guess is you'll be surprised at what can be discovered when the human mind is allowed to stretch.