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Think Outside the Box: Brainstorming 101

Posted by Megan O'Connell on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 @ 8:13 AM

Brainstorming can be a great way to come up with the best new idea, product or solution. But how often do you get stuck with “been there done that” or “it didn’t work in the past”? 


I know I get caught up in my own head and cannot get past an idea until it is a confirmed “No” – or I say it out loud to someone and then realize it was probably not the best idea.

Richard Tait knows this all too well. As a creative consultant, he has held brainstorm sessions for countless companies to help solve issues they were facing. He told us an old story about a major department store chain and how they were able to turn around sales with a simple sales conversation and a strategically designed piece of paper. Crazy, right?

During our monthly ‘Lunch with a Pro’ workshop, Richard returned to our office to help our team figure out the best way to brainstorm.

Continue reading to find out what can jumpstart your brainstorm and what not to say to any idea during a brainstorming session.

Richard told us we needed to break patterns to be able to get fresh, new, innovative ideas. We can’t be creative if we are stuck in the same rut.

First, Get out of the Box

We often see ourselves thinking along the same line – scared to drift away from what is working. That only works for so long before you start to plateau.

Thinking laterally will allow you to venture off the main road, but still find results you need. Of course the key to this is to evaluate and fix as you go – which is the step most people forget to take.

Just be sure you aren’t knocking ideas. The use of killer phrases is what stops the momentum. Phrases like “we’ve tried that before,” “that won’t work,” or “that is the wrong approach,” are what will shut down someone’s creative thinking. At the end of a brainstorming session, review all the ideas and pick only a few that have the greatest potential.

5 Kickers to Jumpstart Brainstorming Sessions

Forced Association

Richard brought a bag of tricks, literally. The first trick to help us get out of our brainstorm rut was a pocket dictionary. He asked us: Pick a page - “39,” Column A or B – “B,” Word 1-20 – “17.” Our word was bronco.

We all kind of laughed. How is that supposed to help us with houseplants? It’s a car or a horse or a motion. He wasn’t giving in. We had to take the word and make it work.

Basically what Richard was saying is that we need to associate our problem with something different in order to get a different viewpoint on it. This helped us create different ideas.

Reverse Assumptions

Every one of us thinks we know what our client or customers are thinking. We assume that they aren’t buying this because of that.

We recently got a new client,, and we thought people were forgetting to plant spring bulbs in the fall. In reality, most don’t even know they are supposed to. We now know how to tackle this issue – we need to educate the public.219065.jpg

Outrageous Idea

What is the craziest thing you can think of to do with your product?

Thinking completely out of the box to ideas that you would never suggest can bring other great ideas to the surface. You would never want to eat Espoma’s organic fertilizer. But making recipes out of the vegetables you fertilize with it is a great idea.

Change outrageous into amazing.

Other Points of View

We often get stuck in thinking that our way is the best way to do it. We thought of it of course. But what would Oprah do? Or Ellen? Or even Kim Kardashian?

Think about what and how influencers would promote this to their fans or following. They are influencers for a reason – pick their brain!

Metaphoric Thinking

Think of a place and pick out an item. Example: Fire House – Fire Pole. What is it? What is it used for? Our thought: Transportation. Now take that and turn it into something you can use.

This is the least common used of the five due to it being less directly focused. It can still be used in the sense of thinking, “how is transportation affecting our products or customers?” It is taking the problem and breaking it into a new segment of thinking.


New ideas come from out of the box thinking – but not so far out that they aren’t attainable. This lunch was jam packed with a lot of information and ideas which we will carry out in our own brainstorm sessions.

We’d like to give a big thank you to Richard Tait for taking the time out of his day to teach us!

Feeling stuck in a rut with your product or brand? Download our guide to launching a new product for ideas!

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Topics: Garden Media Group, Brainstorming, lessons, Lunch with a Pro

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