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Get it All Out
When brainstorming, it's important to get everything out of your head as fast as possible, even if you think it won't work or isn't constructive enough. One of the easiest ways to brainstorm is simply to get a piece of paper, a pen or a pencil and an alarm, be it a clock, cellphone, or computer. Set the alarm to a time that won't be so short that you can't come up with anything, but long enough that you can't second-guess your answers that you've previously written - normally, this is anywhere between 5-10 minutes, maybe a little longer.
Write your problem or theme at the top of your paper and when you set the alarm. Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how you feel about it. When the time is up, simply go through your list and review what you have written. You may be surprised what ends up on the list. This is a great exercise that will help you get into the mindset of solving a problem you would like to fix, opening your mind to the process of idea visualization. This is also a great group list for round table discussion. Here's a quick example of what someone might write if they had to write a paper on the id, ego, and superego.
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Map Your Ideas
Write a your problem, idea, or theme in the center of a blank piece of paper or a white board/chalk board and draw a circle around it. Now, come up with a solution or idea in the form of a keyword or phrase that relates to it, and draw a line out from the circle. Write your idea or solution on that line.
Now, explore that keyword or phrase a little. Provide reasons as to why you think that phrase relates to your main theme, or how it would solve (or how it would not solve) your problem. Write these in other sub-branches. Maybe you are trying to figure out if you should use organic produce in your restaurant. In the circle, you would have the phrase "Organic Produce in Restaurant." On a line from your circle, you would have the keyword "Reasons to Use Organics" and out from those you would list ideas such as "health", "flavor", "environmentally conscious" and "public appeal."
Below is a quick example of a brainstorming map:
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Sometimes the problem isn't just one thing. It's a lot of small things that need to be solved individually. Deconstructing the larger problems you may be having into smaller, easier to understand will be more helpful.
If you're having time management problems within a company, don't think that it means that people just can't/won't meet deadlines - the problem could go deeper. Is there a certain part of a company that is struggling with work load? Is there an individual who is holding people back? Are your deadlines unrealistic?
Break down each problem further until you can begin to solve them with simple solutions. Here's a quick example of how to deconstruct problems:
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All images were created by the author of this article and are meant for educational purposes only.