The Brainstorm

Something that I am asked to do a lot is brainstorm. Maybe it’s for a project, maybe it’s for a discussion, maybe it’s for a homework assignment, but it’s still at a brainstorm. My friend Anya recently wrote a post in which she talks about being about to keep thinking about the thoughts that distract you, and that is the post that prompted this post. Because there is another side of the story of thinking of ideas: not being able to think of them.

You see, like Anya, I easily get distracted by things – ideas, observations, questions – and find it hard to get back to what I need to be doing when all I want to be doing is following the thought that interested me. On the other hand, when I am asked to brainstorm for a project, discussion, or piece of homework, my mind goes blank most of the time. And why is that?

I’ve been having this thought (along with some of my friends) that one of the biggest problems with the design thinking process is that it still likes to fit things in neat little boxes with pieces of paper, lists, categories, and just general ways of obtaining organization. Now, I do not claim to be an expert on design thinking, but from what I understand, it’s supposed to be messy, spontaneous, creative, and most importantly, about thinking.

Thinking is in no way organized. Random ideas will hit you, but if you don’t dedicate yourself to retaining them in you mind or write them down, the likelihood of you ever getting to explore them is low. Between the things I learn, the thoughts I have, and the things I have to memorize, my mind feels like it is constantly buzzing with information and things get jumbled. I may switch up a fact or forget a step. I may start stressing out because I feel like it’s an information overload. There are any number of things that go on inside my head at any given point in time. The most important thing, however, is that my thoughts are not put into near little boxes with color-cordinated lists. They can also not be simply called upon at any given time for a brainstorm (especially my creative thoughts).

Now, I know not everyone has a problem brainstorming ideas, and I know some people would prefer to have organization, and this is only my personal opinion, but the thought wouldn’t leave me alone (also, I would never be able to focus on my history homework if I didn’t get it out), so I would love what hear what you think about this. Do we need to change the way we brainstorm? Do we need to change the way we set up design thinking? If so, what are possible solutions for either of those? Or both? I would also love to hear your experiences, so please share those.

2 thoughts on “The Brainstorm

  1. Enjoyed the post and for my two cents; I think brainstorming sometimes is great in a group because you can build off of others ideas. And if you are having a day without ideas I think it is okay, because brainstorming is a creative process. So it may mean being alone with your thoughts for the storm to brew. DT is messy yes and beginners need training wheels, so the playbook is organized to catch everyone. As people grow in the process they develop(design) the plan that fits their needs. Those are my thoughts

  2. “Kata,”

    There are so many ways and methods of brainstorming. One book that has really helped me as a resource is _Gamestorming_. Another resource is _Making Thinking Visible_. And TED talks by David McCandless and Candy Chang can demonstrate the visualization of data and thinking in powerful ways. I’ve found these talks particularly enlightening as I’ve developed my own visualizations and ideations.

    I think that thinking is highly organized — it’s just that there are SO MANY ways to organize, and the linear methods often taught in schools are only a small fraction of what’s possible.

    Bo/Mr. A

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