1. Set parameters to focus your ideas. Ironically, too much freedom can hinder your creativity. Boundaries help your memory function, giving your ideas more depth and breadth. “Too many times, people start off really broad,” Rossi says. “That’s a lot of pressure. It’s easier to anchor an idea somewhere.”
As you brainstorm, focus your thinking by asking specific questions. For example, if you’re looking for new marketing strategies, list ten things you could do on Facebook or five ideas that involve crowdsourcing. Play with a variety of prompts and write down whatever comes to mind, no matter how loosely associated.
2. Search for random inspiration. To think outside the box, you need to trigger your brain to make connections it normally wouldn’t make. To do that, look for inspiration that seems entirely unrelated to the problem. Rossi often prompts his team with unexpected words, like pineapple or sparkles for a car company. “Nine times out of 10, the ideas people are excited about are generated by the ridiculous random prompt,” he says. To find prompts, look at popular photos on Pinterest and trending words on Twitter, or click ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ in a Google search.
3. Aim for quantity, not quality. While you’re generating ideas, turn off your internal editor. Exhaust your good ideas and start throwing out suggestions that seem absurd or wrong. Remember, you can always make a bad idea better after the fact.
Rossi finds that speed and friendly competition help people churn out ideas without judgment. Once, he put 100 one dollar bills in the center of a table and told his team they could take one every time they said an idea. “In 15 minutes, we came up with 100 ideas,” he says. “Fifty of them were really interesting.”