Aim High: Why You Should Let Loose During Brainstorming

A bright sky filled with blue and white clouds

Self-limiting thoughts are critical to overcome for better brainstorming sessions. 

Brainstorming is one of the most important parts of the creative process. It sets us up for the rest of the project. That can also make it a really stressful part of the process.

How often do you catch yourself re-thinking an idea — even a rough one — and tell yourself it’s not possible, so you immediately shift gears toward another safer idea? 

It happens to all of us! And we may not even realize in the moment that’s what’s happening.

But getting past those self-limiting thoughts and letting loose during brainstorming can impact your thinking in so many ways. Some call this “blue-sky thinking”, which can be described as brainstorming without limits.

What would you do if you had no time constraints, all the resources in the world and a dream team to make it happen?

Yes, this type of brainstorming might sound crazy and impractical, but it’s also a great way to break into new ideas, solve problems, and overcome self-doubt.

We often don’t think about how far-reaching our brainstorming could be until we’re aware of how we're used to limiting ourselves. If you want your brainstorming to go further, make it a goal of the session. 

Here are a few ways letting those big ideas and dreams dominate your brainstorm session can actually help you go further and achieve more.

Recognize your insecurities

Most of the time, the question “what would you do if you couldn’t fail?” doesn’t feel helpful at all. Failure is a part of reality and we want to avoid it as much as we can.

But in brainstorming, applying that question can spark big ideas. Even if it feels a little bit cliche at first.

On the surface, eliminating the prospect of failure can look pretty simple, but when you start to dive into what that means and what else you could achieve, you start to think about bigger questions. This is a very important part of brainstorming. Sometimes, we simply don’t follow an idea because we shut it down before we’ve even explored it out of fear or failure. 

It can take some practice to get over the “I can’ts” and “what ifs” of blue-sky brainstorming. If you find yourself there, ask more questions, like:

  • What would the steps be to actually achieve that idea? Do I have the ability to do any of those steps? (You might find that yes, you can) 
  • What’s in the way: resources, confidence, or something else?

There’s usually a nugget of reality in those big dreams and ideas. They’re just surrounded by self-doubt and reasons, valid or not, why it can’t be done.

Looking further into them and challenging yourself can help you look at a problem or project differently. You might find that the idea you started out thinking was too big or too crazy actually holds some truth and vision.

Let yourself be inspired 

Big ideas can be intimidating, especially when it involves your career or passion. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, even when you know that taking a risk can pay off. It can feel like a bit of a catch-22. 

These deep dive, big dreaming brainstorm sessions can be the sources of a long term project or goal. Don’t limit or dismiss your ideas if you think they aren’t immediately relevant. Instead, write them down and keep them in the back of your mind. More importantly, revisit them throughout the brainstorming process and see if your ideas or plans have evolved enough to make them useful. 

Sometimes we let self-doubt win because we don’t have a skill or connection, but blue-sky thinking can inspire us to reach out to somebody who can lend their expertise or nudge us to learn something new. 

When the thoughts of why you can’t do something start to creep in, meet them with ways you can overcome that roadblock.

For example, if you want to start a new website, but doubt that you can design it yourself, you have the choice of giving up the idea completely or finding a resource that allows you a way forward. Could you find a simple website-building platform? A tech-savvy friend or peer? An agency?

In the grand scheme of things it’s a problem that could easily shutter an idea completely, but it’s also a problem that is easy to overcome. And solving that problem can be the basis of even more big ideas and reaching even bigger goals. 

Anticipate more outcomes

Brainstorming isn’t just a way to think of ideas, it’s a way to anticipate problems along the way. In fact, a brainstorming session wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t think of the snags you might encounter as you try to execute a plan.

Thinking big and letting your mind wander throughout the brainstorming process can actually prepare you for future problems and solutions that you might not have thought of if you kept to a “safer” line of thinking. Even ideas that you might feel are more realistic or approachable can run into issues.

Think of this aspect of brainstorming as preparedness. Even if you can envision something horrible going wrong, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily likely. Just as you would other big ideas, think through it, name ways you can address or avoid it and what would happen if that outcome really happened.

“What if” questions can be equally inspiring and alarming, but don’t let them dominate the brainstorming session. They’re there to guide you along the way so that you can develop the best possible idea.

It’s important not to confuse this with self-doubt. Self-doubt’s origin is fear of failure. Your inner critic tells you you can’t do something because you might fail or it might be embarrassing. If you’re looking for holes or problems, that’s just something you should take note of or be aware of so that if it pops up, you’ll have already thought of it. It’s not a reason to quit. It’s a reason to keep going and dream even bigger.

Written by Kara Mason.

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