When it comes to content marketers, there is one question that always piques our interest – Where do others get their ideas? And with more brands creating content than ever before, it can be challenging to continually keep ahead of trends, churn out fresh concepts and repurpose ideas – let alone do so across multiple platforms. To inspire the creation process, I’ve highlighted a few resources to help guide your brainstorming and idea generation efforts for 2013.
Whether it’s a long-form blog post, a resource article, an infographic or video, a good brainstorming process should be your jumping off point to fuel ideas. Not only is it helpful in uncovering new topics or trends, but also in tapping into the perspective of others and steering creative direction.
Here are a few brainstorming techniques to try out for your next group session:
…but first a few ground rules as a good reminder:
- Encourage Free-Thinking, No Boundaries
- No Criticizing or Dismissing
- Keep the Process Moving
- Let Ideas You Don’t Understand Go
A simple, graphic form of listing ideas by jotting down thoughts on a large writing area and making connections by associating ideas with color-coded circles or lines, indicating other relationships by linking.
- Write down an idea or topic in the middle of your space.
- Start adding words, in no particular order, that relate to the main idea.
- Once you’ve exhausted ideas, ask who, what, when, where and why to prompt new thoughts.
- After the space is filled, look for any patterns among words.
- Group thoughts that are related or repeated by color.
- Use the groupings to provide areas of focus for your concepts.
An alternative method to brainstorming that tries to encourage uniform participation within a group is brain writing. Like brainstorming, it is designed to generate lots and lots of ideas in a short amount of time and typically follows a 6-3-5 method: 6 in group/3 ideas per round/5 minutes per round.
- Give everyone a brain writing sheet.
- Hand out sheets with space for a topic or keyword at the top of the page and space where ideas can be written.
- It can be a different topic for each person or the same for everyone.
- Write ideas.
- Pass the sheet to the next person, who adds more ideas, using the existing ideas to build off where possible.
- Keep going until you’re done.
This method involves brainstorming as many ideas as possible, then selecting the best ones as “triggers” to expand on. This is also referred to as the “Idea Purge Phase.”
- State the objective or topic.
- Have the group write many ideas rapidly on a sheet of paper.
- Take a two minute break.
- Continue the exercise for an another minute.
In some cases, traditional brainstorming methods may best suit your team environment and goals. For those who prefer virtual collaboration, there are a variety of online brainstorming tools available that can help you move past a topic or idea that seems stuck.
Online Mind Mapping Tools
Bubbl.us helps to organize thoughts or jumbled information through the use of text bubbles – making it easier to sort ideas and start planning.
Mindjet is a great way to expand your ideas in a graphical way and lead your imagination in new directions. You can download the software for free with a 30-day trial offer. The application will walk you through the process of creating a sample mind map and familiarize you with the various features.
Word Storm visualizes the association between words by creating a map of closely related words. Start with a keyword to use as a jumping off point for this word association tool. You can also tailor the search to be narrow or broad by selecting the number of words returned. Scroll over each word for various definitions.
And if you still find yourself at a dead end…Just Google it! As one of my colleagues likes to say, “it’s worth a Googin.” Type in a keyword and let Google’s automatic search do the work by filling in suggestions based on relevant topics.
I hope the creative tools and resources in this article will help you to start 2013 with a focused mindset.
How does brainstorming work with your team? Please let me know in the comments below.