While brainstorming sessions can be useful, more often then not brainstorming is notorious for being unstructured and often not actionable. The problem is even if there are great ideas in the room, there is often no clear-cut way to decide on what ideas to take action on.
Let’s take a look at what’s involved in building a better brainstorm from a Googler’s perspective. There’s a simple, 3 step process Google uses to come up with its most innovative ideas, check the full article out in Fast Company’s, How to Brainstorm Like A Googler written by Veronique Lafargue. For a quick read, we’ve extracted the key steps below. (Note: We especially like Step 2, Think 10x)
Building A Better Brainstorm
At Google, while we’ve learned that freestyle brainstorming is the basis of innovation, it doesn’t turn into substantive action without some structure. That’s why we’ve created a linear process for brainstorming new ideas and turning them into actual products:
- Know the user
- Think 10x
- Get To Know The User
To solve a big question, you first have to focus on the user you’re solving it for—then everything else will follow. So we go out in the field and talk to people. We collect users’ stories, emotions, and ideas. We learn to get comfortable with silence. We watch, listen, and empathize. You can’t just understand your users’ needs—you need to actually relate to them.
- Think 10x
Being able to describe an idea in less than six words helps you clarify it.
Now that you’re armed with information to base your brainstorm around, you can get down to thinking—but not just any thinking. The notion of “10x thinking” is pretty familiar in the business world by now, and it’s at the heart of how we innovate at Google. It’s about trying to improve something by 10 times rather than by 10%.
The next step is to have all participants write down their ideas individually before getting back together as a group and deciding which ones to pursue. When team members reconvene with their sticky notes and the most productive part of the brainstorming process kicks into gear, make sure to follow these six guidelines:
- Build on each others’ ideas. Systematically follow up ideas with, “yes, and” instead of shooting them down with “no, but” comments.
- Generate lots of ideas.
- Write headlines. Being able to describe an idea in less than six words helps you clarify it.
- Illustrate. Pictures are usually louder than words.
- Think big. Invite bold, intrepid ideas—yes, this is the “10x” part.
- Defer judgment. Don’t judge ideas in the midst of brainstorming (remember Rule #1).
Then it’s time to take action. Most brainstorming sessions end with an agreement to have another meeting later, to take those ideas and work them up further. It’s a common mistake. You want to strike when the iron is hot. We like to build a quick prototype pretty much right away. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just a physical manifestation of an idea that’s designed strictly to answer the most immediate questions and test our first assumptions about an idea that seems promising.
If you like this article, you might also enjoy reading, Innovation: 5 Ways Leaders Enable Innovation In Their Teams.