When developing new products and strategies, coming up with unique ideas is often a struggle. It is one of the reasons why, in any industry, there is so much repetition. One way to generate new ideas and “get the creative juices flowing" is by completing brainstorming exercises using props. There are several ways to incorporate brainstorming into a new product development session. Two of my favorite techniques are skimming business publications and utilizing goodie bags.
What is Brainstorming?
According to dictionary.com, brainstorming is: 1) A method of shared problem solving in which all members of a group spontaneously contribute ideas or 2) A similar process undertaken by a person to solve a problem by rapidly generating a variety of possible solutions.
In action, brainstorming should be uncensored. No idea is dumb or impossible. In an organization, throw titles out the window. The janitor's ideas have the same validity as the CEO's. When implementing the brainstorming techniques below, try to pretend you know nothing about what is (or is not) possible. Write down ideas as they come up, no matter how outlandish. The task at hand is to free-associate, generating as many ideas as you can.
Brainstorming with “Goodie Bags"
There's nothing more boring than a sterile conference room. Yet, this is where many new product development sessions take place. To liven the atmosphere, you need a springboard. . . stimuli to get the ideas flowing.
One technique for providing stimuli is to gather miscellaneous items into “goodie bags" and have brainstorming groups sort through them, writing down ideas as they occur. As seasonal Marketing Manager for Nestlé's Sunmark Division several years ago, I used this technique to hold a very productive new product development brainstorming session. In preparation, we filled colorful gift bags with small items that would stimulate new product ideas because of their texture, taste, appearance, ingredients, sound, or smell.
In the meeting, we divided the team into sub-groups of three to four people and gave each a bag. After digging through the bags, discussing, and writing down ideas, each group gave a small presentation. We came out of the meeting with many more great ideas than we could implement that year and it was fun for everyone involved.
Brainstorming with Business Publications and Trade Journals
If you do not have a group to work with, try using business newspapers and prominent trade journal as springboards for generating ideas. These can be effective brainstorming tools for several reasons:
- The general publications contain articles about several industries, which is good for brainstorming new ideas that can apply to your own industry.
- Marketing techniques and strategies discussed in the journals can help you brainstorm new marketing ideas of your own.
- In publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the editors include a mix of short articles (good for brainstorming ideas based on what others are doing) and in-depth reports (good for brainstorming new product development strategies that grow from trends).
- By skimming a variety of business related articles (news articles, features, human interest, and analytical pieces) you broaden your idea base, which results in more new product ideas.
Additionally, many print publications have integrated the Internet into their traditional business models. Besides offering both online and offline versions, many provide email alert services. Because they have successfully integrated online marketing into their own business, writers and editors are able to intelligently address both online and offline strategies, which in turn will create a more productive brainstorming session for you.
Applying the Techniques
Both trade journals and goodie bags can be used for other strategies besides new product development. They can also be used as techniques to generate ideas for online products and services, new marketing strategies, business taglines, and more.
Whether brainstorming alone or in a group, remember two rules: 1) no censoring and 2) use props as springboards for new ideas. Do this and your brainstorming session is sure to be a success.
About the Author
Bobette Kyle draws upon 12+ years of Marketing/Executive experience, Marketing MBA, and online marketing research in her writing. Bobette is proprietor of the Web Site Marketing Plan Network ( http://www.websitemarketingplan.com ) and author of the marketing plan and Web promotion book “How Much For Just the Spider? Strategic Website Marketing For Small Budget Business, " http://www.howmuchforspider.com/TOC.htm .
© 2002, 2004 Bobette Kyle. All Rights Reserved.