Why brainstorming matters

Sep 05 2013

The author, right, shows support for one of many ideas brainstormed during the first week of the fall semester.

The author, right, shows support for one of many ideas brainstormed during the first week of the fall semester. Photo: Sara Peach

After three semesters with the Reese News Lab, you’d think that I would be used to the way things go, but I have recently found that it is quite the opposite. This became clear to me during our recent orientation when my nerves caught up to me in a brainstorming activity.

I have been brainstorming ideas my whole life — from solutions to problems to my restaurant options when I want to eat out — but for whatever reason these brainstorms felt different.

When I took a step back and asked myself why I was feeling so anxious, I realized it was because though I have been with Reese News Lab for three semesters, each semester has been completely different from the previous one. I began as a blogger, worked my way up to reporting and now I am being thrown into a prototype-development-start-up project of sorts with only a vague idea of what I am actually doing. Who wouldn’t be nervous about that!?

Brainstorms can be especially daunting because they require you to think on the spot, push yourself to continuously develop, work through ideas in a short period of time, and put yourself and your thought process out there — my fundamental problem being the latter.

As a relatively shy person, I don’t always feel comfortable screaming out my crazy ideas, and I often feel they may be overshadowed or that they won’t measure up. But somehow I quickly got over this problem at Reese News Lab by gradually contributing more to the brainstorming dialogues, and now I feel much better about the whole concept.

Since orientation, I have participated in five brainstorms, and I have come to love the process. I now firmly believe that in order to move forward with any kind of project, you have to completely work through your thoughts and the thoughts of those around you.

Having worked through this experience myself, I want to speak to what I consider the most important elements of a brainstorm.

1. It’s referred to as a brain dump for a reason: In other words, don’t be afraid to share every single thought you have no matter how crazy or silly you think it may be.
2. Listen up: You may brainstorm by yourself sometimes, but the best way to brainstorm anything is with a team. When you have five sets of brain dumps occurring, rather than one, your ideas multiply and get pushed farther.
3. Don’t doubt your ideas: They may lead to the award winning answer your group has been looking for, and if you never speak up then they may never come up with what you have.

Take it from a previous non-believer in this creative process. Brainstorming will make or break your growth, your progress, and your process. If no one ever hashes out ideas, concerns and opinions with one another, how can you ever move past a preliminary stage?

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