You've got a problem.
That's not new – business owners have had to deal with problems ever since the first Neanderthal hung a shingle and started selling rocks from the mouth of his cave. But the difference is that this is your problem and it's up to you to find a solution that's right for your company.
One of the most challenging aspects of problem solving is recognizing that there may be more than one way to achieve resolution. In fact, most of the challenges you face can be resolved any number of ways. Yet the irony is that business owners often struggle to develop even a handful of potential solutions. Instead of devising a list of possible solutions and making a decision, many leaders languish in the more comfortable analysis stage. There's a phrase for that – it's called "analysis paralysis" and it's a condition that affects scores of business leaders everyday.
Skilled problem solvers understand that the best and most creative solutions often emerge from a list of solutions. The way they achieve a list of potential solutions is through brainstorming – and even though you may be familiar with the term, you might not be familiar with the way it needs to be applied to small business decision-making.
What Is Brainstorming?
Brainstorming was developed in 1953 with the assertion that individuals and groups who engage in brainstorming activities could double their creative output. It's based on the concept that an overabundance of ideas is more desirable than a lack of ideas; a pool of ideas can be whittled down to viable solutions, while a shortage of ideas represents limited options and poor choices. It's common for brainstorming to occur in small groups, but it can also be a useful technique for an individual business leader who is tasked with identifying solutions for business challenges.
The Right Way to Brainstorm
- Dedicate time & space. Brainstorming requires time and space. Whether it's done in a group or individual context, reserve time in your schedule and find a secluded place where you can brainstorm all possible solutions to the problem without disturbance.
- Set parameters on the problem (not solutions). Clearly define the parameters of the problem, but don't discriminate when it comes to potential solutions. Your focus needs to be on quantity, i.e. creating a list of as many solutions as possible. At this stage of the process, the quality of those solutions isn't a consideration.
- Perform systematic analysis. After you have exhaustively considered all possible solutions, begin to systematically reduce the list based on resources, feasibility, and potential outcomes. In many cases, you'll discover that the solution you choose is a combination of several ideas that were generated during the brainstorming process.