I LOVE Brainstorming. How can I do more of it?
October 3, 2008 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I LOVE Brainstorming. How can I do more of it?

I find brainstorming stimulating, satisfying, socially gratifying and just really fun. I think I'm pretty good at it too. I always have these mini eureka ideas and I constantly jot things down in my notebook and on jott.com

What activities and career paths can I pursue, such that I get to brainstorm more? And such that I am rewarded for doing more brainstorming in broader and more diverse idea-spaces?

Right now, I'm a founder of a startup and I have started an "open gym"brainstorming group in my local area, but I'm thinking down the road.

How can I make the most of this affinity/ability that I have?

I've heard smart people go on about the need for innovation, and I want to do my part to increase innovation in the universe.
posted by k7lim to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this will help or not, but I'm doing something along the lines of what you're doing. I had found that I get really good ideas when daydreaming, so I started a daydreaming club at my university. Since its a little hard to just sit down and start daydreaming, it helps to have something to ignore. Boring books are good for this, and I had a recent askme looking for boring books for that purpose: http://ask.metafilter.com/102673/Boring-Books

Daydreaming is more individual than brainstorming though, but it could perhaps help. At least when you're on your own - it sounds like that open gym is better for multiple people. Good luck!
posted by daboo at 1:03 PM on October 3, 2008

Improv? It certainly uses a lot of the same mental "muscles."
posted by obliquicity at 1:20 PM on October 3, 2008

Improv (obliquicity) was a great answer, or comedy writing/acting in general. (Warning: career path may contain cocaine habit.)

I'd say marketing, but then you end up with no heart and that's not a good tradeoff.
posted by rokusan at 1:34 PM on October 3, 2008

You should probably think past the great idea to figure out what it would take to give you a sense of satisfaction, too.

My brain is also flooded with "great" ideas all day long (some of them are horrible in hindsight, of course, but they feel great at the time). Sadly, my implementation rate is about 0.04 percent. :(

I think I can smell my next AskMe coming...
posted by rokusan at 1:36 PM on October 3, 2008

In your brainstorming group, why don't you use topics that are real-world problems, like "how to improve education in the U.S." or "how to promote peace among X and Y" and then, THEN, brainstorm ways to implement the great ideas you had? That's a two-parter right there, and you are innovating for social good with real-world results.

I used to ask my college students questions like this on essay exams and they had some creative and interesting answers.

Also, I would love to have a "Real World [insert warring country 1 here] and [insert country they are at war with here]" and the people would all live in a house together and learn to love each other and world peace would blossom out across the land (along with rainbows and unicorns).

Perhaps I need to brainstorm ways to be more sane.
posted by Punctual at 2:02 PM on October 3, 2008

Thirding improv. If you pursue a career in marketing, you'll probably wind up doing a fair share of brainstorming.

Though, fwiw, running through the annals of AskMe are a whole category of questions that are essentially, "I've got a great idea- how do I actually do it?". Extremely few people in the world are actually paid reasonable money to just come up with ideas, and they tend to be extremely smart and experienced in a certain area. The world is full of people who can come up with good ideas- the trick is being able to deliver on them.
posted by mkultra at 2:18 PM on October 3, 2008

You could go along to a BrainStore event and try and get on their freelance brainstormer list. Their full time facilitators are called IdeaTechnicians. They're based in Long Beach in the US, but might be worth a trip to participate in one of their workshops.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:22 PM on October 3, 2008

It's not like the world *really* needs another blog, but...

Ironic Sans has a great category of posts called "ideas" that are pretty much cute, random ideas the guy has dreamed up in a spare moment. There's even a store based on some of them. So maybe throw your mini eureka ideas online in some format, encourage input and discussion, maybe even make it clear that other people are welcome to develop them into something real? You could even invite other folks to submit their ideas, and you could select the best and publish those too. Perhaps share the results of your "open gym" brainstorming sessions, or get the participants there to contribute to the website too? If it gets enough people involved you could even throw out "starting points" for brainstorms to the community, a bit like Edge's Questions.

Of course the most important thing about ideas is actually turning them into reality, but hey, easier said than done...
posted by so_necessary at 2:46 PM on October 3, 2008

(I kind of feel like this post will be a motivational-speaker-esque response to your question. Fair warning. But it's my initial reaction.)

Decide right now whether you think you genuinely have a useful talent or not. If you think you do, set up some mid-term (~6 month) goals for yourself, without a specific path or resolution in mind. Obviously nobody can tell you your personal goals, but the first thing I think of (in this economy) is a way to turn spare time into revenue or savings. But maybe you want to save kittens. Or chop down trees. Or build your own outhouse. Or build friendship with all your neighbors in a given radius. So long as it's something you genuinely want.

And brainstorm. Set up as many goals as you can manage, tackle them mentally for a week or so. Think inside the box, outside the box, use the box as a projectile. But--and here's the magic--you have to APPLY what you come up with. Brainstorming, you see, is basically useless without applicability. It's just feel-good mental exercise until you have results, or something that translates into results in the proper environment. Really what you want is A result; not necessarily THE result. The best thing about brainstorming is it gives you things you can use in lots of situations, not just your own.

Then see whether you hit your goals! And as you learn about how you brainstorm, what your strengths are, how realistic your predictions turn out, you take something completely mental and extrapolate it where it matters--the world of cause and effect. And this course of action doesn't rely on groups, or other people to play along (at least not on your end.) You are responsible for the outcomes of your ideas, which really are the only valid metric initially.

/End hokey motivational speech.
posted by Phyltre at 2:56 PM on October 3, 2008

I find brainstorming stimulating, satisfying, socially gratifying and just really fun. I think I'm pretty good at it too. I always have these mini eureka ideas and I constantly jot things down in my notebook and on jott.com

For the most part, brainstorming is just about the least important part of a development process. It's even less valuable if the brainstorming isn't coming from experts in the field; having fifty ideas is utterly worthless if none of them have any relationship to reality.

Since any random groups of idiots can generate whiteboard-item "ideas" on a subject, and since brainstorming includes as a fundamental rule that no idea should be discounted for being stupid or undoable, brainstorming is only really useful as a source of random noise to be filtered through a group of people who have a goddamn clue what they're doing. Is is this filtering that is the valuable service, not the generation of noise.

I think the "career path" you're looking for, where non-productive circlejerks are regarded as work, is "middle management". Alternatively, you could go into a field where the ideas are so trivial that no expertise is necessary to evaluate or implement them, where the ideas literally are the product: t-shirt slogans, marketing gimmicks, etc. But even there, the trick is to recognize the excellent gimmick that comes out of the fifty bullshit ones.

You may be able to eke out a consulting job in more advanced brainstorming as an information architect specializing in live group work, but you'd better be able to provide more service than writing shout-outs on a whiteboard--you know, like a little information architecture. Note that if you go this path, you'd be mediating and notating the brainstorming, and not participating.
posted by Netzapper at 3:06 PM on October 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Happy Dave beat me to the BrainStore rec, but you can get work as a freelancer anywhere. I'm based in Australia and I sometimes do NetScout (online research) for them. Contact them and see how you can fit. They're the PERFECT company for you.
posted by divabat at 4:51 PM on October 3, 2008

Also: what about think tanks?
posted by divabat at 4:52 PM on October 3, 2008

Doing something creative - writing speculative fiction, comedy, etc.
posted by MythMaker at 5:52 PM on October 3, 2008

If you can ignore the somewhat new-age / self-help tone of The Einstein Factor, the techniques are actually pretty interesting and effective.
posted by Alabaster at 6:25 AM on October 4, 2008

Sorry, misread the question -- the book I posted above is a good suggestion for powerful brainstorming techniques, but doesn't help as far as the "career path" question you asked.
posted by Alabaster at 6:28 AM on October 4, 2008

I think Netzapper's response is a bit harsh.

I run a small team that focuses on technology transfer and innovation development. I don't have any "experts in the field", nor do I have extremely gifted people on my team. Mostly my team is comprised of people that are passionate about what they're doing, not afraid to consider off-the-wall ideas, willing to take chances, and are undaunted by the effort required to turn ideas into reality.

Often the "turn ideas into reality" part is the most challenging. Often, it means building partnerships of individuals or companies. Often, it means a lot of cold-calling and reaching deep into one's network. And, is really where the "experts in the field" usually come in. Experts are typically highly specialized, and revolutionary ideas are rarely specialized.

The other emotionally difficulty is the high failure rate. There are so many things that can go wrong. This is not a good path for someone who is afraid of failure.

Even if you're able to find the the right resources and know-how, and you've convinced yourself that it actually has a market, then you then have to con others to put money toward it. Try to get someone to part with ten thousand dollars to let you pursue your crazy idea. It's probably easier to find someone to give you a million dollars to compete with Google than to pursue something completely unique.
posted by brandnew at 8:04 AM on October 4, 2008

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