A few responses to this week’s series on brainstorming for travel agents have asked about the best way to brainstorm in a group. Here are some techniques that have worked very successfully. Like always, however, these are suggestions only. Your particular office may find variations or other techniques that work better, and please feel free to share those with us. One rule pertains above all others in the process of brainstorming: no criticism allowed! For the initial brainstorming sessions, postpone criticism or coming up with reasons why an idea won’t work. A good brainstorming session should be a free-play zone without fear of ridicule or criticism. Later, ideas can be refined. During the session, however, it’s an idea free-for-all. Also, make sure you have a person assigned to record the ideas during the session so no good concepts are missed or forgotten later.
1. Ask a layperson – The problem with experts in any field is they become myopic in their perspective. “In the mind of the child there are many possibilities, in the mind of the expert only a few”. It is always worthwhile bringing an outsider into the process to facilitate creative thinking. In particular, teenagers and young adults with very little experience in travel can be valuable allies in a brainstorming session. For example, the problem on which you are brainstorming may be “how to promote a luxury around the world tour by private jet. ” It may be a child that says “I would love to see all those countries with my grandmother!” Hmmmm… not a bad idea for a promotional angle. A grandmother sitting in on the brainstorming might say “That sounds expensive” – sounds like we better emphasize value…like time spent on an amazing adventure with grandkids.
2. Pick a word, any word. Ask everyone in the room to pick a word off of a book on a book shelf or from a randomly opened page of a novel. Ask them to pick an interesting word, and then to write it down on a piece of paper. Now, write down the problem you are trying to solve. How can the word you first wrote down assist in solving the problem? Let’s say you are still trying to solve the problem of how to promote around the world tours. Let’s say the word someone chose was “chicken”. Brainstorming might suggest a line of thinking like this: “Chickens are birds…think of all the exotic birds and animals the passengers will see….chickens taste good…how do they taste in London vs. the way they taste in Bangkok…think of all the exotic foods…What if a passenger is a chicken to travel all the way around the world? What might be stopping them? What might they be afraid of? What do we need to consider about fear of the trip? Why do we need to do to get them to cross the road? Chickens have feathers…wouldn’t it be a feather in the cap of anyone who went?…” You get the idea.
3. Bizarro World – Borrowed from the old Superman comic books and from Seinfeld – think in reverse about all the wrong ways to promote your project. “…Hand out flyers in bankruptcy court.” …”Promote the time spent in the airplane seat.”… “Promote the crime rate in all the cities you will visit.” These bad ideas give rise to some better ones: “let’s emphasize the value, not the price, and choose promotional venues where we reach travelers who appreciate value. Those around the world programs have some pretty cushy airplanes, let’s emphasize the comfort, the onboard accommodations and amenities and the companionship of the travelers. Crime rate? Let’s promote the track record of the company we are using, the expertise of their guides and the comfort of traveling in numbers.”
The idea with brainstorming is to have fun, to operate with no risk of ridicule, and to open your team up to creative streams of consciousness. Every problem has a solution if the people trying to solve the problem are open to the most creative opportunities.