I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the evolution of countless ideas. They all start our ugly. So you just need lots of ideas to start with.
As a creative professional and while teaching at Monash University in Australia, ISCOM in Paris, and now Berghs School of Communication, one mindset that stands out always (that rookies don’t often realise), particularly during brainstorming and conceptualising stages, is quantity over quality.
This might seem counterintuitive, especially in a world that often prizes perfection. However, during the initial stages of ideation, it’s all about creating a vast ocean of possibilities without immediately diving into judgment. Put a massive emphasis on the number of ideas rather than the quality of ideas.
Why Quantity Matters
In a brainstorming session, the goal is not to come up with that one million-dollar idea immediately. Lightening won’t strike, and your muse usually takes the day off. Instead, it’s about stretching the boundaries of your creativity, throwing every conceivable thought on the table, and letting the ideas collide and commingle.
Think of it like this: When we focus solely on quality, we put ourselves under immense pressure. This chokes creativity. On the other hand, quantity allows us to enter a flow state – that magical zone where ideas just keep pouring out effortlessly.
The Importance of Flow
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes, flow is a state of complete immersion in an activity. The world fades away during flow, and one’s entire being is centred on the task. Not only do you like being there, it feels fucking great to be there. In creative fields, this state is invaluable. The trick lies in fostering short, sharp flow periods where you can keep your pen moving without hesitation. Just keep it moving. Doodle if you need to. Just keep your pen moving.
Top 5 Tips to Facilitate Quantity and Flow in Brainstorming:
- Set a Timer: It sounds simple, but it works. By setting a timer for 10 minutes, you mentally commit to filling that time with as many ideas as possible. Knowing there’s an endpoint can help alleviate the pressure of perfection. At Berghs, it’s amazing how many students get interesting starting points from a 10X10. In this simple game, you must have 10 ideas in 10 minutes. Simple.
- Embrace sucking: Remind yourself and your team that there’s no such thing as a bad idea during brainstorming. Sometimes, the most outlandish thoughts lead to the most innovative solutions. Make it a game to have terrible ideas, write them down, and keep moving. It’s amazing how useful those bad ideas are when you tweak them later.
- Change Your Environment: Staring at the same four walls can be stifling. Take a walk, change your room, or shift your seating position. A new perspective can lead to a flood of new ideas. I don’t spend more than 30 minutes in one place.
- Make it a game: Whether it’s a deck of cards with random words, a toy, or a tactile object, sometimes holding or seeing something can trigger a new train of thought. Those little bits of serendipity are extremely useful for making lateral connections within your subject.
- Rapid Sketching: Instead of just writing words, try to sketch out your ideas. This can be particularly useful for those who think visually. Please don’t focus on making it perfect; focus on getting the idea on paper. Just be sure to add enough information that when you look back at your ideas, it doesn’t seem like the crazy scribbles of a mad person.
As creatives, it’s in our DNA to strive for perfection. And you’ll get there in the end. But remember, every really good idea begins with a simple, often imperfect, weird, ugly or unusual idea. By valuing quantity in our brainstorming sessions, we lay down a fertile ground from which true quality can eventually sprout.
So the next time you find yourself in a brainstorming rut, remember: Keep that pen moving, let the ideas flow, and watch as the magic unfolds. And maybe enough laugh at your bad ideas. They helped you get to the good stuff.