Pop a hat on, find a partner and brainstorm your best ideas

Illustration by Jade Brown for Virgin.com

When you’re trying to come up with your best ideas, a good old-fashioned brainstorm is a great place to start.

But how can you make sure you’re making the most of a brainstorm? Here are five ways…

Pop a hat on
Philosopher Edward De Bono came up with the idea of six hats that you should metaphorically wear when thinking. These represent the six distinct directions in which the brain can be challenged. Examples include red hat – representing hunches, intuition and feelings and yellow hat – representing optimism and brightness. By imagining yourself wearing and changing the hats, De Bono reasoned that it would be possible to redirect thoughts or focus, exploring things from different angles.

Get a partner
Find someone to discuss ideas with – someone who understands what you’re trying to achieve. “This should be someone you can bounce things off, crazy things maybe, someone who won’t laugh or ridicule you, who will encourage certain trains of thought, who won't dominate the discussion but who allows your creativity to flourish,” says Marie Brown, founder of Beyond the Kitchen Table, which helps entrepreneurs to come up with new ideas. “I have coffee from time to time with someone I met through business. She has run her own business and is setting up a new one, but in a completely different field to me. Nonetheless she ‘gets’ what I am trying to do and I always come away from our discussions brimming with new ideas to test further.”

Total immersion

If you’re a lone ranger without someone to bounce ideas off then find some time to get stuck into the problem.

Photographer Antonina Mamzenko says, “I immerse myself into the topic for a while, reading everything I can find about it. Once I have a bunch of decent ideas and I write them down and that usually leads to more ideas.”

Mamzenko says another thing she finds helpful is to “just start writing things out. I've noticed when I teach and start creating content for my students, I often come up with great ideas for my own business just through the process of trying to systemise my knowledge into easily digestible chunks.”

Leave the office

If you want to think more creatively, you might need a change of scenery. “I work with many clients brainstorming content and blog ideas. I often meet clients in a cafe or co-working space, and we visually draw out their ideas on a mindmap or put them in a shared document,” says content creator and trainer Claire Winter. “It's good to get all your ideas out on paper, even the wacky ones. You can then refine them and decide which ones will work for you."

Don’t be scared

“Ask yourself what you would do if you weren’t afraid,” says business mentor and mindset coach Ruth Kudzi.

Once you’ve banished the fear, Kudzi says you should “write down everything that you know and all the ideas that you can think of. Leave it and go for a walk or have a break, revisit and circle those which you find the most appealing.” Then expand on how you can make them into reality.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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