To get the most out of a brainstorming session, you need a good way to capture and record the ideas when they get to flowing. Just to have people talk about their idea is not enough. They are too quickly forgotten or misunderstood. That’s why you have to practice making your ideas visual.
The best way to capture ideas (which are abstract by nature) is to make them visual (more concrete and tangible). And we’re not even talking about words on a page. Words written down are better than words spoken when capturing brainstorm results, but they’re not nearly as effective as sketches of an idea.
You must draw the idea so that others can quickly visualize what you are talking about. Make a visual representation of the idea. Sketch out some sort of picture that can represent the idea even if it isn’t a literal interpretation of the idea. Use or create some sort of icon. Draw an object that represents the idea or a seed of the idea. It doesn’t have to be complex or lifelike or exact in scale and proportion. Just draw a form or shape or use some stick figures. Start with what you can.
When you draw something that represents the idea, it does several things for you and your team. It helps to engage more of your brain. When you draw and then talk about your drawing, you are engaging both the left and right sides of your brain. The activity will start to fire up the creative capabilities in your brain. In fact, just drawing or sketching for fun will help your creativity. It happens every time for me.
Drawing an idea on paper will also help spark the creativity of your team members. We’ve seen it countless times. People will start to talk about their idea, and there will be minimal engagement around the table. Then when we ask people to draw or sketch out a physical representation, suddenly the team will react and start to offer additional ideas to build on it. With a drawing, a person’s eyes an quickly assimilate and process the information and then translate it to the brain for additional ideas. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
The other thing that thinking visually will do for you and your team is to help you remember the idea long after the session is over. I have gone back years later to look at ideas captured visually at brainstorming sessions, and I can instantly remember everything about the idea that was proposed. It’s amazing how the drawing can anchor so many associated details in the mind.
Here are a few other things you might incorporate in your visual thinking.
- Use bold markers not ball point pens. Make the lines bold and clear so that they can be seen from across the table or room.
- Capture only one idea per piece of paper. I like to use sticky notes because I write and draw fairly small. But you can also buy sticky notes in various sizes. If you have a large group or you’re in a large room, you can use an 8.5×11 piece of copier paper. Or if you don’t want to use full sheets, you can cut the copier paper in half to make 5.5×8.5 sheets which are also a great size.
- Give your idea a creative name. Make it funny. Make it a pun. Give it your own brand name or build on the brand name of your company. Riff on other product names in the marketplace or in your industry. Make the name “sticky” so that when you look at the idea from across the room weeks later, you still know what it stands for.
I know what some of you are thinking right now. “But I’m not creative!” Or “I don’t know how to draw!”
I get it. I’ve heard it a thousand times. Remember that you’re not entering your drawing into an art contest. It’s simply a physical representation to start up a discussion. Remember also that everyone will be drawing around the table, so chances are, someone else is struggling to draw too.
Do what I did. Teach yourself to draw. Go to your local library and check out a book on learning to draw and sketch. Go to a local hobby story and get a book. Buy a journal with unlined paper and start drawing and doodling. You’ll be amazed at how fast you can pick up just a few skills that will enhance your drawing capabilities.
As for not being creative, I believe you are more creative than you think. Your creative muscles just need to be exercised. You can do things like learning to draw that will help boost your creativity.
So get drawing and make your ideas visual!