Brainstorming is probably the most popular creative problem-solving technique. Many other techniques, including mindmapping, draw from this basic concept and elaborate on it.
The main idea in a brainstorming session is to generate lots of potential solutions to a problem. Brainstorming participants offer solutions as they think of them; each contribution is then listed in the order it was mentioned, without any attempt to categorize or link it. During this initial brainstorming session, judgment is eliminated and wild ideas are encouraged. Suggestions are only evaluated later, once all the ideas have been exhausted.
"A lot of people stop brainstorming too soon. The secret is to keep at it after the easy, obvious ideas surface," says Higgins. "Later, when people's minds are pushed to the limit, more creative thoughts tend to emerge."
While one person can brainstorm about a given problem, more varied contributions tend to surface with at least six participants. "Solving problems totally alone can be very limiting," says Robert Alan Black, Ph.D., president of RAB Inc., a creative-thinking consulting firm in Athens, Georgia, and author of Broken Crayons: Break Your Crayons and Draw Outside the Lines (Cre8ng Places Press, $16.50, 800-447-2774). "Involving others can provide insights--even naive points of view--that offer a different perspective."