Brainstorming on paper

Brainstorming & Big Pieces of Paper

How do you brainstorm?

Some do it in their Moleskines, some use mind-mapping software, and I suppose there’s an app or two on the iPhone for just this thing.

I use big pieces of paper.  Yah, yah, how old-school of me.

Different color pens and a few colored sharpies.

There’s something about the poster-size that really lets me relax into the brainstorming process. And I think it’s because what it offers hits on the Secret Sauce to Brainstorming

1. When I’m brainstorming ideas, I want to keep all them front & center (even the stupid ones).  Especially those. The best brainstorming ideas build on each other, and I always have to get all the obvious stuff out first.

Keeping them all right in front of you helps your brain make connections and Great Leaps Forward. Think whiteboard more than WordDoc. 

2. When I’m brainstorming a process, I let things get messy.  On a Big Piece of Paper, there’s room to outline Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3…and then the NEW Step 2, which needs to go before the other, and then Step 3 gets broken into three and consolidated later…And soon I have chunks of text all over the page, with arrows and scratch outs everywhere.  And it’s all there, visible at once to arrange and rearrange.

3. Then I stop & let things marinate.  When I hit a stopping point, I like to back off, but leave the paper on my coffee table as I’m doing other things. Sometimes I’ve actively thinking about it and sometimes not, but it’s all percolating, and the big print acts as a steady reminder to provoke more good thoughts.

To me, having everything visible means more things stay in my working memory.

Which makes it easier for connections to happen, for my thinking to expand, and my natural organizational skills to kick in and combine/break-apart, to chunk like things together, and recognize gaps.

What about you, how do you brainstorm?