Brainstorming: Is Your Mind Wild Enough to Make a Conceptual Leap?

Product Design and Behavior Expert
Over a year ago

Brainstorming is on the endangered words list, at risk of slipping into ‘buzzword’ territory any day now – although some would argue it’s already there. That’s because everyone is doing it, but many of us don’t quite know how to. According to Bill Burnett, Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford University, the process is fundamentally misunderstood – it’s about more than sitting in a group expecting genius to unfold. What’s missing from most brainstorming sessions is the notion that this is a skill, not a magic trick.

Here are 3 practical suggestions that Burnett has put forth In the past: start brainstorming with games and improv activities to limber up creative team thinking; create an environment that encourages wild ideas without any negative feedback or reality checks; have a realistic expectations for a team to improve over time. How many garage bands sound good at their first practice? How many chefs get a Michelin star for their first meal? You don’t win Olympic Gold straight off the couch. It’s a popular and true sentiment that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, and while most of us will never have to time to build up that mother of a timesheet, fortunately we can borrow the wisdom that Burnett has cultivated over his many years at Apple and Stanford.

In this video, Burnett explains how to use brainstorming in an actionable way, why crazy ideas are so necessary to break out of thought clusters (which the human mind is wired to get stuck in), and how to ultimately make a conceptual leap forward to your next brilliant idea.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans' book is Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.