Creative Brainstorming Techniques (With a Tie to Memoir Creation)

Bryan Mattimore is president and co-founder of The Growth Engine Company, LLC. His 2012 book “Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthrough” is well worth a read if you are interested in breathing life into your organization's brainstorming strategy and process.

Here’s a quick review of a few of the “ideation techniques” Mattimore presents, one of which has ties to memoir creation:

  • Question assumptions at every point in the process. Challenge whatever “orthodoxies” your organization has. First, create a list of up to 30 assumptions you may be making about what you want do discuss; then use them as “thought starters” to broaden your thinking.

  • Let your imagination run wild as you create a list of wishes about what is being discussed, then focus on a few of those wishes to generate realistic — yet original — ideas. This technique works well when brainstorming a general topic, for example: “What can we do to ensure our continued success as an organization over the coming decades?”

  • Ensure that everyone gets the chance to contribute by using a technique called “triggered brainwalking.” Key words associated with the topic being brainstormed are written on poster-size paper and displayed. Each person in the group is given a marker; one by one they write their own idea on the paper or add to an idea written by another group member.

  • Create a list of the very worst ideas you can think of — truly ridiculous ideas that would never work. Good ideas can then be generated by flipping the bad idea around, or by looking for seeds of sense within the nonsense (this one is a lot of fun).

  • Picture prompts can evoke ideas on your target topic. Most of the pictures should be consistent with what you are discussing; for example, if you are trying to better define your organization’s culture, you could share images of people at work and at play, alone and in the company of others. Throwing in some random, non-related pictures can further stimulate the creative process.

Mattimore’s “picture prompt” technique is akin to a tip we share in our “Preserving Life Stories” workshop as a way for people to get started on creating a memoir (or jump-starting the process if it has stalled). It goes like this:

Use objects as memory prompters. Pick up and hold items you have that are from the time period you want to memorialize. Close your eyes and picture the object in the setting where you experienced it; memories of people and events associated with that time are sure to follow.

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