Sparking creativity or what is most commonly referred to as brainstorming, when you’re alone is far more difficult than when you’re within a group. The onus is all on you. You can’t pass the reins to anyone else and passively listen. Nor can you follow or jump on someone else’s thought train (as I often call it) to move an idea forward.

I equate ‘Lone Brainstorming’ to Meditating. You need to find your happy place, a place that will set you up to make it easy for you to meditate. In my case, my happy place is my personalized HUGE Black sketchbook which one of my colleagues (thanks Gloria!) gave me as a Birthday Present.

When I open this book, it’s my mind’s cue that I need to be calm and patient with myself so I can start the idea concept generation (ideation). There are many brainstorming techniques out there. There is no right way or wrong way of brainstorming, but it’s important to find techniques that work for you.

Prior to sitting down to meet a creative challenge, as a brainstorming strategy it is necessary to get all the information required to provide a solution. This means reading briefs or provided Powerpoint presentations, if available, doing store checks, understanding the space in which the brand lives (investigating the industry) via the internet or whatever other means, checking out the competition and researching the target market (niche, psychographics, demographics). Armed with all the background, you’ll be on firmer ground when you start.

In the 24 years of being a Creative Instigator (!), I have found the following steps have enabled me to streamline my conceptual thinking and provide me with a loose structure that allows me to… well, think freely!

Be specific. It’s key to set the parameters before you start. This allows you to focus and ready your mind to work efficiently, providing you with a sifting mechanism for the ideas you will generate. Just like doing the prep work, it’s really important to define the mandate to stay close to the marketing or creative challenge.

See the big picture. Don’t get caught up on the details. That often stifles creativity and you start getting so wrapped up in the minutia. Don’t worry about the details, if an idea has validity then the details will often take care of themselves with a tweak here and there.

Make a time commitment.  If you give your brain a challenge, you need to stay with it. The key here is remaining focused for 90 minutes, a solution often appears!

Take strategic detours. I can’t emphasize enough the value of allowing your mind to wander strategically! It’s an art that takes time to develop but the importance of having creative freedom in generating creative solutions within specifics can’t be touted enough. This is what makes any brainstorming session efficient. When flying solo it’s important to:

  • Follow the connections: This is conceptualizing at its finest. Make mind maps, word maps or doodle maps… whatever is most comfortable for you. And follow them where they lead. It replaces the team of creative minds that you don’t have sitting around the table with you.
  • Dare to fail: Go onto a path that may or may not lead to a dead end. It’s not important at this juncture to have a particular destination. It’s about taking the journey to discover what’s around the corner. Often the sidetrack will lead you to a better place!

Take five or a lay-over: And don’t think about it. You need time to digest. Occupy your mind with something else, like creating a meal, taking a walk, going to a museum or even reading. It’s not an old wives’ tale when they say “sleep on it”. The creative mind is exceptional! I have often found the next day leads me to a better solution than I had thought.

Don’t sell yourself short. It’s easy, especially for creative types when left on their own to often doubt that they can find the solution. Without a creative team around you providing you with a comfort zone and a way out, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So don’t!  Rid yourself of all these comprising thoughts, and just set yourself to the task at hand…  awesome conceptual solutions for your clients… it works every time!