Today I had an opportunity to participate in a brainstorm discussion. I was really looking forward to the meeting and our followup tomorrow. There is nothing more exciting to me than getting in a room with colleagues and kicking around ideas. I know that there are plenty of people that would rather get a root canal than get involved in a brainstorm discussion, but I dig it.
My approach to brainstorming depends on the amount of time I have available before we going. One of the first things I do is look at the competition to see what they are doing differently and try to come to understand how they might have reached that point. The next step is to expand out from there to non-direct competitors in the same industry. This usually provides some different perspectives on the verticals they focus on. Sometimes this yields some new ideas but many times it is just a gut check on my suspicions. From there I try to look at some of the leaders online. Many times this is just revisiting some sites I haven’t checked out in awhile. Amazon, Dell, Apple and depending on the project I’ll take a look at some less technical sites like Gap and Land’s End for more retail inspiration.
After visiting these sites I start to think about the consumer. Who is going to use the product that I’m working on? You could probably argue that this should come first. For me I like to check out the “scene” first then circle back and see if some of the early concepts in my head hold up to the audience. If not, this gives me an opportunity to flesh out an idea and file it away until next time. Don’t doubt the old ideas. I have a handful of concepts that I have tinkered with in some form or fashion for the last three years that I’ve been in my current position. It may be that we never bring any of these to light, but that isn’t the point. Sure I’d love for some of those ideas to get some legs, but the important point for me is to keep these ideas close so I can tap into the inspiration for a different project.
Sometimes I put these ideas on paper and sketch them out. Other times I just write down the key points I want to remember. Then I throw the ideas into the mix along with everyone else to see what we can bring together. I’ll explore some additonal ideas next time on how to move forward.