We all want to involve innovative ideas into our strategic planning, but many of us struggle with the creative process. We tend to put ourselves in boxes made from our own limiting beliefs. We say things like "brainstorming is hard for me" or "so-and-so comes up with the innovative ideas". We mentally block ourselves from being able to be the creative people we truly are. First you need to drop the limiting beliefs, because they're not serving you. Read more on my post about five limiting beliefs to drop now. Next we'll get some tools in the bag. My preferred method is mind mapping. The mind map is the perfect tool, because it's very quick and aligns to how the brain works. Lastly we need to learn the do's and don'ts of brainstorming made easy. We'll focus on how they work and especially how they don't work.
The mind map is the perfect tool, because it’s very quick and aligns to how the brain works.
Generally speaking all of our brains function the same way. We all have strengths that make certain activities effortless, but that does not mean we can't strengthen areas that we find valuable. There's no sense in making it hard by mentally sabotaging yourself. For this to work, we need to alter our outlook. Going forward, you'll stop saying "I can't...", "I hate...", and "I'm not...". Now you will say "I value being creative and I get better every time I practice"! Because you want the innovative strategic planning, you'll commit to making these changes. It's just words you have to say, so there's no excuses! If you really want something made easy, don't make it difficult to start with.
Our brains are networks of associations. Some of these are not logical, for example the smell of licorice reminding you of a barber shop from your childhood. Others are very logical, like the smell of smoke and fire. Our brain is constantly creating associations and relationships to better understand the world around us. Because it's a fluid and free-form process, trying to access the illogical associations with a structured logical mind is very limiting. Mind maps are unstructured by design and align to the many random associations your brain will create. It's the perfect design when you don't need to know what will come next and when it does not make sense. Every thought branches to another and you keep writing. The innovative ideas that will help your strategic planning exist in these areas. Why? Because everyone sees the logical conclusions and connections. Innovation requires new thinking versus the obvious.
An article from the Harvard Business Review says "When creativity is under the gun, it usually ends up getting killed" and I agree. Most of the people I work with on this subject fight with the process. At the root of their challenge I find unrealistic expectations. They're in a hurry for a nice structured outline or idea to help with strategic planning. They go into mind mapping with a logical linear mindset. They find anxiety in the mind mapping process, because it does not create structure and can feel like it's not leading to end goal. The structure will come later, but for now it's important to change our goal.
Innovative ideas often come when we’re not focused on the problem, so give yourself permission to get off task for a bit.
The point of the mind map is to generate information that can be organized later. The novelty and diversity of the information will lead to very interesting insight and more comprehensive solutions. Innovative ideas often come when we're not focused on the problem, so give yourself permission to get off task for a bit. The biggest part of brainstorming made easy is to not fight the process. You can read about some other examples, like "fear of ambiguity", in this article from Copy Blogger.
As an aside, I would not advise using a mind map structure to write structured linear thoughts like an outline. This too will lead to frustration and anxiety. For brainstorming made easy, you'll want to practice the process and set your expectations appropriately. There are times where I move back and forth between mind mapping and structuring. If the thoughts stop flowing when mind mapping, then try to structure the information for a while. If you find the structure is not solving the challenge yet, then go back to mind mapping for a bit. Go back and forth until the structure is where you want it. For me, this is very common when I'm using it in conjunction with strategic planning. Visit Tony Buzan's site for more information on how to mind map. Remember practice makes perfect, so keep trying until it becomes comfortable!