We love brainstorming; it’s quick, it’s empowering and it’s fun.

But on its own it’s a poor way to solve problems as it usually fails to address what the real problem is and may even offer a form of escapism that gives people license to ignore the existence of the problem altogether.

There’s no point generating ideas before you know which aspect of the problem to tackle… and you can’t decide that before you know what’s actually making the problem happen… which you won’t know until you have a clear definition of the problem… and that’s hard to do unless everyone agrees that it actually is a problem.

So here’s how we do it:

  1. Acknowledgement: Does everybody accept this is actually a problem? If not, let’s share the bad news because we’re not gonna solve a problem we don’t think exists.
  2. Definition: What’s the actual problem? Too much X? Not enough Y? The wrong kind of Z? All of the above?
  3. Causality: Why is it happening? Why is that? And what’s the reason for that? Do these things cause each other? And what’s beneath all that? Why?
  4. Strategy: Where could we have the greatest impact for the least effort and where should we attack first?

Ok, now you’re ready to brainstorm.

It sounds like a lot of work, but not when you consider the time and effort that goes into ideas that not only don’t work but might actually make things worse.


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Written by Jason Clarke

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Celebrated author, adventurer, gold medal Olympian and popular TV chef; Jason is none of these things. He is, however, one of the most sought-after creative minds in the country. As founder of Minds at Work, he’s helped people ‘think again’ since the end of the last century, working with clients across Australia in virtually every industry and government sector on issues ranging from creativity and trouble shooting to culture change and leadership.