Mention brainstorming and you probably get an image of a group of people sitting around a conference table with a stack of Post-It notes. But brainstorming is something you can also do alone.
In fact, it’s something most home business owners will have to know how to do, especially when coming up with ideas for blog posts and emails. You might be able to settle on a specific blog title by searching for SEO keywords, using Ask the Public, or looking at how Google auto-completes a word or phrase typed into the search box. But to use those techniques, you first need to generate ideas.
Here are 5 brainstorming techniques that will work for business writers working alone.
Brainstorming Technique #1: Starbursting
In Starbursting, you begin by drawing a six-pointed star. In the centre of the star, write the topic you want to brainstorm. Each point of the star is then used to explore one of six questions: what, who, when, where, why, and how. So, you might ask: what is this technique? Who will benefit from it? When and where should they use it? Why should they use it? How do they implement it? By focusing on questions, there’s no pressure at this stage to know how you’ll answer the question and what you’ll write.
Brainstorming Technique #2: Figurestorming
This technique starts with picking a well-known figure, such as a fictional character, a celebrity or a sports star. You then ask yourself how that person might approach the topic you’re brainstorming. The idea is to shake you out of a narrow focus on your ideal customer and your preconceived ideas about them. If you had an hour to sit down with Sherlock Holmes or Kim Kardashian or Serena Williams, what would they want to know?
Brainstorming Technique #3: S.C.A.M.P.E.R.
S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is an acronym that captures seven ways for taking a fresh look at a topic. It stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate and Reconfigure. So if you were thinking about blogging about storage containers you might ask: what would happen if we used products from Dollar Tree rather than The Container Store? Can we use both together? Can storage containers designed for the kitchen be adapted for use in a home office? Can storage containers be modified to make them more attractive? Can we use a storage container designed for one purpose for something else, such as turning a kitchen roll holder into a holder for reels of ribbon or washi tape? Can we declutter enough to get rid of some of our storage? And, finally, can we reorganise our storage space so it’s easier to access the things we use most often?
Brainstorming Technique #4: Mindmapping
Mindmapping is a visual technique where you generate ideas based on previous ideas. It lets you refine and develop your thoughts in a gradual fashion. You simply put your topic in the centre of the page and write down all the ideas you have connected with that central idea in a circle around it, drawing lines to link each idea to the one that prompted it. You then repeat the process for each new idea you’ve generated, ending up with a spider’s web of ever-more-detailed ideas and insights. One advantage of mindmapping is that if you get stuck in one area, you can move on to another — which then may shake loose more ideas associated with the point where you got stuck
Brainstorming Technique #5: SWOT/PEST
Using a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) or PEST (Political, Economic, Social and Technological) analysis can be a great way of understanding the context around the topic you’re exploring. What’s holding people back from achieving their goals: Weaknesses like a lack of skills or Economic factors like a lack of money? Or what Strengths, such as a thirst for learning, or Technological developments, such as smartphones, can they exploit to move forward. A SWOT or PEST analysis will help you better understand where your customers are coming from and how to serve them.