"We gather knowledge faster than we gather wisdom." - William Bell

The Cue Card Brainstorming Strategy

Posted: May 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

You start with a problem. A problem that you want to solve. So then you try to brainstorm solutions. Think of creative ideas. Come up with cool things to do. But too often people get brought right down to the execution.

How would we do this? What could it look like? Do you think it would work in Brazil? Does it translate to Portuguese?┬áIt’s like picking the colour of your drapes before you even have the blueprints for your house. It’s stupid. It’s distracting. It’s a waste of time.

The goal of brainstorming is to come up with as many solutions to the problem as possible. Details are distracting. So is feasibility. Ignore the small details to create big ideas.

One of my favourite methods for tackling is problem is to use cue cards and big felt marker. The small size of the cards and the inability to write small with a big marker force you to think in concepts, not details. Here’s how you do it:

Start with a well defined problem.
Take a stack of cue cards and a felt tip marker.
Set a time limit.
Write one idea per card.
If you can’t fit one idea per card, it’s too complicated.
Fire out as many ideas as possible.
Then stop.

Take a break.
Get a coffee.
Take a nap.
Whatever floats your boat.

The cards will be able to be grouped into idea buckets.
So group them.
Spread them across a table or the floor.
Throw out the ones that are horrible.
The ones that are stupid.
The ones that could never work.
Put them all into a pile.
Put that pile in the trash.

Now go back to the groupings of ideas.
Build on the ones that have potential.
Add in more details.
Throw in stuff that would be cool.
Dream up expansions to the ideas.

Now you have piles of different concepts.
Each of them has the potential to solve your problem.
Figure out which one you like the best.

Once you’ve decided on the solution, you can start to fill in the details. You can get distracted by the many ways of bringing it to life. You can tackle the hardest part – actually making it happen. But not before you’ve decided on the idea.

- Christian

What Would __________ Do?

Posted: December 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

A Brainstorming Technique.

The easiest way to solve a problem is to have someone else solve it for you. Everyone has mentors, heroes and such. What would they do if they faces your problem? This brainstorming technique is designed to leverage your imagination to find just that.

Think of three people that you admire from different parts of your life. Pick at least one:
- Famous politician
- Childhood friend
- Celebrity
- Successful billionaire
- Person from one of those “top 100 ____ people of 2010″ lists

Now put yourselves in their shoes. How would they tackle your problem? What would their experience tell them? How would they use the resources that they have? (Whether it be fame, experience, money or connections.) What would they do? Why? Then figure out if you can apply it to your situation.

Sure, you may not have the same access to resources as the mentors you picked. But some lateral thinking may unlock ideas of how you can achieve the same on a smaller scale. And then you may find yourself looking at a solution rather than a problem.

- Christian

I know that these posts have become somewhat rare on Idea Drunk as the blog evolves, but I found a whole bunch of them in an old notebook and was thinking of bringing some of them back. Let me know what you think. Good? Or boring?

TV Brainstorming – How To Do It

Posted: June 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

A couple of days ago, I posted an article that pointed out that you can find a hell of a lot more time to do productive things if you forgo some passive television watching. For the past week, I’ve been thinking about this.

On one hand, it’s easy to give up television right now. There are no good shows on. The NHL and NBA playoffs are almost over. What is there left to watch? Now is the perfect opportunity to kick the habit and do something more productive with your time.

On the other hand, I like the relaxed escape and imaginary environment that television creates. I can see the benefits in letting an alternate universe wash over you. It got me thinking – why not do both? Escape to TV-land, but remain productive.

And that’s how television brainstorming was born.

All you need is a problem, a notepad and a television. Here’s how to do it. As you are watching your program, pause during each of the commercial breaks to ask one of these three questions:

1. How would your favourite character on the show solve your problem?
2. How would your issue be different in their TV universe?
3. How would the bad guy on the show solve your problem?

By placing your problem in the universe that your television program has created, you bend your mind and look at the problems differently. You use your imagination to see potential solutions. You suspend the “rules” of your normal universe to take on those from an imaginary one. All of these things can lead to solutions in the real world.

The best thing about this technique is that it creates a time constraint. If you don’t think of anything during one commercial break, you’re back to your program. And in 5 minutes, you get another shot at brainstorming.

So, give it a shot. Let me know what you think.

- Christian

The Post-It (Brainstorming) Strategy

Posted: April 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

When starting to think around a problem, sometimes you have so much information and no context. So many ideas and no strategy. A lot of muscle, but no skeleton. You are bogged down by information overload and need to focus on relevant ideas that solve your problem.

When this happens, I like to use what I call “The Post-It Method” to focus my thinking and generate new ideas. It’s a brainstorming strategy that one of my friends taught me while at was working on strategy and new business pitches at my old agency. It’s pretty simple.

How To Do It

1. Collect all the information you can
2. Distill it down to points you can fit on a post-it (8 words or less)
3. Place it so you can see everything
4. Start culling/reducing/organizing to build your idea

Why It Works

I really like this method because I’m a visual thinker. I like to see information and problems. By culling everything down to simple points on post-it notes, you can physically shift things around to build arguments. You can group like-minded ideas. You can toss stuff that doesn’t work into the recycling bin.

Give the post-it method a shot the next time you’re stuck on a project. You might find that by having all of the points spread out in front of you, you’ll see things differently. If nothing else, people will think you’re creative from seeing you stand before a wall of post-its and moving them around.

- Christian

Brainstorming On The Bus

Posted: May 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | No Comments »

The awesome thing about public transit is that it’s one of the easiest ways to get a ton of random stimulus. All you have to do is get on a bus and open up your senses.

Why It’s Good
Cities have so much to see that we are largely blind to. We spend so much time focused on our destination that we rarely observe our surroundings on our journeys. If you’re driving through the city, you never have a chance to soak in what’s going on around you because you’re concentrating on the road.

The people, the traffic, the buildings, the interactions. Brainstorming on the Bus allows you to see everything from a different angle.

How To Do It
Buy a ticket, get on the bus, go to the back and soak it up. Doodling on a big pad of paper helps me bounce into ideas. There are three steps to brainstorming on the bus that will help you succeed:

1. Explore what grabs your attention
2. Apply it back to your issue
3. Come up with ideas

- Christian

Adapted from “How To Have Kick Ass Ideas”

How to Create Great Ideas: Listen & Ignore

Posted: March 10th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | No Comments »

I believe that everyone aspires to have a great idea. One that adds tremendous value to your life. One that could even change the world. But a great idea requires a different mindset and approach than a good idea. Because a good idea is something that’s … just good. It doesn’t change a culture. It doesn’t create a sustainable competitive advantage. There are two things that you need to do in order to create a great idea:

Step 1: Listen

You need inspiration. That’s why you listen. You need to know what the core elements of the problem are. That’s why you listen. But don’t just listen in your office or boardroom. Get out there and listen to real conversations. Find out what real people are thinking. People who don’t have a vocabulary of corporate bullshit. And listen to realms that are outside of your own. If you are in advertising, take a look at science. If you’re in science, take a look at how people do things outside of a lab.

One of the best examples of drawing inspiration from a everyday situations is here. Shell invented a cheaper way of drilling oil (that is also better for the environment) by seeing a teenager drink a milkshake from a straw. Your inspiration is out there. You just have to listen.

Step 2: Ignore

In a manifesto “How To Be Creative”, the cartoonist Hugh Macloed’s first rule is to ignore everybody. I agree.

The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you. You don’t know if your idea is any good the moment it’s created. Neither does anyone else. The most you can hope for is a strong gut feeling that it is. – Hugh Macloed

Because when an idea is a great idea, it is originally resisted. This is because all great ideas motivate change. People fear change. You need to ignore everyone in order to be original. It allows you to free your mind and do things your way and not how society tells you to.

Before Sean Combs’ first fashion show for his Sean Jean clothing line, the business mogul never saw a fashion show. He didn’t want to see one. All he knew was how he was going to do it. So he rocked it by launching his label his way without the influence of seeing how everyone else normally did it. Needless to say, it’s been a big success.

So by ignoring everyone, you kill all external influences. That means that there are no nay-sayers and no preconceptions … only you, the problem and your mind.


It’s pretty simple. Listening gives you insights and inspiration. Ignoring everyone allows you to create the correct mindspace to think and develop your idea. The end result is great ideas.

- Christian

A Hot Bath – The Perfect White Space

Posted: January 21st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | No Comments »

Last week, I wrote a post on the importance of white space and gave a few examples. I realize that each individual will have specific ingredients for what composes their ideal creative environment. Now I’d like to share with you my personal favourite white space: a hot bath.

I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t get the chance to indulge in a bath too often due to the current bathing structure of my condo, but when I do, it’s like magic. I feel as though a nice relaxing soak provides me with the correct mindspace to tackle any problem.

Why Does It Work?

Most people find they have some of their best ideas when they are relaxing. To relax fully, you need to relax your body as well as your mind. By lying in a hot bath, closing your eyes and chilling out, your whole state becomes receptive to creative ideas.

So here’s my suggestion of how to initiate your own (personal) bath brainstorm:

  1. Run a bath
  2. Soak and relax
  3. Write down your ideas
  4. Soak and chill out

And even if you’re not getting the ideas that you need, at least you’ll be clean. And I think we can all agree that hygiene is important.

- Christian

Addition to the post at 2:15pm on Monday, January 21st:

Apparently today is also the most depressing day of the year, according to the American Insitute of Psychologists and Time magazine. And a hot bath has been proven to make you feel better and relax the muslces in your neck and lower back, which can tighten as a result of stress.

Why You Should Get High and Brainstorm

Posted: December 6th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | No Comments »

You should try brainstorming high. I’m not talking about shooting crack through your eyeballs and babbling incessantly about how “The Man” is keeping you down. You can use THC, alcohol or even endorphins from exercising to get high. The key is to allow your mind to graduate to an altered state.

I know what some of you are probably thinking. This dude is a total pot head trying to find a legitimate excuse to indulge. That might be true. However, I believe that there is validity to this technique. All of the other brainstorming techniques that I’ve discussed and employed try to do one thing: view your problem from a different perspective.

Think about your issue in a different way. That’s what it’s all about. That is how you come up with brilliant ideas, by taking an unconventional approach to representing the problem. If you view the issue the same way that everyone else does (such as your competition), you will come up with the same solutions.

Previous techniques have changes the constraints of how you represent a problem. This does the same thing, by altering your state of mind. You will view things differently. You will come up with new ideas. And the best thing about it, you’ll probably be too high to say “no” during the brainstorm. Every idea will be a good idea. Which is perfect for brainstorming.

How To Do It

1. Get high
2. Define your problem
3. Take another hit
4. Brainstorm solutions
5. Eat some Doritos

Granted, I realize that this technique is not for everyone. I mean, certain people are not able to assert self-control and focus once they enter into an altered mind state. Chances are, they’ll just be funny high people and distract you. They key is to relax, enjoy the new perspective and tackle the problem.

- Christian

Visual Brainstorming: How And Why To Do It

Posted: December 3rd, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | No Comments »

I was reading How To Have Kick Ass Ideas and came across a cool article in the book that described a visual brainstorming technique that I thought was pretty cool. The whole thought process behind it was to capture your issue or opportunity without using words.

How To Do It

Get playful, get a big piece of paper and let fly. This is not about being artistic, but about having fun – you can make sense of it all later. You can draw it, you can paint it … you can even make a collage of with pictures from magazines. The key is no words.

Now, when you look at it, what does it make you think, what ideas does it give you? How else could you interpret it? If you look at it sideways, what relevance does it have to your opportunity? What ideas does it give you?

Why This Technique Rocks

Creating visuals means that you use your brain in a different manner to when you are using words, so it forces you to think in new ways. Once you have made visuals the top priority, you will have much more space to go with creatively in your interpretation of what the issue is and how you may be able to tackle it.

It’s a bit like art. Everyone sees something different in it, and the longer you look and change your perspective on it, the more ideas you get. If you interpret your own sketch by just blurting stuff out then you will find that your insights will become richer and more fertile.

- Christian

Flickr Brainstorming Technique

Posted: October 7th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Brainstorming Techniques | No Comments »

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been mulling over perfecting a new technique for brainstorming based on the web 2.0 phenomenon. One of the best things about the new evolution of the internet is that consumer generated content reflects the feelings of the masses. It does not simply broadcast the views of a single maven. Instead, it amalgamates the views of hundreds of people from all over the world. Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is the We Feel Fine project. The idea of this program is to scan all of the blogs across the internet for the phrase “i feel ____” and tracks the feelings that fill in the blanks.

This means that at any point in time, you can track the most popular feelings and emotions from the people populating the internet all over the world. You can even pinpoint specific historic moments in time. I highly recommend checking out the reactions of people worldwide on September 12th, 2001. Or even a couple of weeks ago when the images of abuses in Myanmar (formerly Burma) were flooding the internet.

Regardless, the great depths of the internet permits us to view a diverse set of popular opinions on any subject. Why not leverage this resource for your brainstorming needs? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.

1. Have the team entering the brainstorm search the topic of your brainstorm at Flickr.com

2. Print out the top responses and use them as images for the basis of the brainstorm.

3. Provide each brainstorm participant with one of the Flickr-based pictures. Each person writes down the first things that come to mind.

4. The group discusses the images and the words/phrases that each participant generated.

This technique is designed to provide a broad foundation of ideas from which to draw from for more specific ideation sessions. The main purpose is to provide a wealth of ideas that stretch across a variety of themes. Hopefully, everyone has a unique perspective of perceiving the issue and is able to express it at this time.

And remember, especially in this part of the ideation process, never say the word “no” because all ideas are valid at this stage. Every idea is a good idea.

- Christian