1. What’s your goal?
When you’re trying to come up with an idea for anything it’s always helpful to have an end goal in sight. Knowing what you’re working towards helps motivate you and direct your efforts in the same direction. Writing a paper or creating a presentation is hard enough as it is. Make it a bit easier on yourself and decide what you want to focus on first. Come up with a list of interesting things. Dolphins, Argentina, Circular Flow Diagrams, Derivatives, Ancient Greek gods. The possibilities are endless.
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What are your limitations and bounds?
It’s also good to recognize what the limiting factors are in whatever you are trying to accomplish. If the paper you are writing is only supposed to be two pages you have to figure out what you want to say in a quick, concise way. If the presentation is only covering Austria before the first World War you probably don’t want to talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger. When setting up a lemonade stand you have to take into account how much money you will need to begin with. This is a good step in making sure you aren’t putting forth all your effort into something that won’t pay off or doesn’t fit the assignment.
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What are alternate solutions?
This is always good for tweaking ideas that you already have. If you already have an idea of what to do for a project it never hurts to ask other people their opinion or what they would do. Chances are you’ll be able to refine your idea and make it even better by hearing other solutions to the same problem.
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What are possible problems and how can you overcome them?
A key part of brainstorming is identifying problems that might come up before they do. It’s always good to go through a list of problems that might arise and make sure you’re prepared to handle them. If you’re designing rocket fuel you don’t plan on anything exploding. But… you should probably figure out what to do if something should happen to erupt in a fireball. Most times your problems won’t be this exciting or deadly. But it’s still good to prepare for them.
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Finally, put all these steps together in a solid plan of action. Brainstorming is more than coming up with an idea. It’s coming up with a plan on how to get from that idea to your finished product. Once you organize all the previous steps you can move forward and make actual progress. Have fun brainstorming!