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Face your enemy - Brainstorming
By: Success Atlas

During the course of my life, both childhood and adult, the military has played a primary role. My father, a 20+ year military man, raised me in various locations all over the world. Then, I myself did a tour of duty, serving my country and learning more things about life than I though I ever could. No matter your personal position on those that serve in the military, you have to admit that this environment can teach you many things that can be applied in various roles in your life. Even in your role as a businessman or woman. Yes, it’s true. Some of the key lessons I learned in the military I now apply in my business career and am all the stronger for it. One such lesson is – face your enemy. There is only one way to defeat an enemy, and that is to face him. You see whenever you stand toe-to-toe with your enemy they have a way of appearing less intimidating than before. They diminish in their ability to impose their original amount of fear or anxiety into your heart. Often their ability to strike such fear will disappear entirely. Now if you think of your problems in the same light, be they personal or professional, then they too can be diminished and conquered. Here are the combat tactics for overcoming your enemies on the business/personal field of battle. 1. Sit in a quiet place with pencil and notepad. On page one write your major problem. Avoid going into any detail, but state the problem simply in a sentence or two, three at the most. For example, “I need a promotion, how do I go about getting it?” Or maybe, “I'm too fat, what can I do to lose weight?” It could be, “my business is stagnant, how can I make it thrive?” Or perhaps you're encountering a personal problem of some kind. The problems of the human mind and heart are seemingly endless. But they have two things in common. The first is they are not unique but shared by hundreds, even thousands, or millions of others. And two, they can be solved. And solved a lot easier than you might think once you can clearly face them. Once you have your first problem down on page one, go to your second problem, write it on page two, then your next problem on page three, and so forth, and so on, until you have all of your problems listed on separate sheets of paper.

2. After you have all your problems listed on separate sheets, return to page one. Review your brief statement of your problem. Then, sit back, relax, and begin to think about the problem. Only allow those thoughts that relate directly to your main problem to occupy this time. While going through this careful thought process, begin to list all of the possible solutions that come to mind. Do not worry if some of your ideas for solving your problem seem far-fetched or even impractical, list them anyway. Often when an impossible solution is transferred out of your mind onto paper, it will suggest another solution that will be more apt to be the one you want.

What will this process do for you? Well, first realize that when you have several problems and you continue to carry them around inside of you, they will never solve themselves. They can, however, cause you to worry. Potentially even to the point where they can even make you sick. But once you list them, have them written down, you have changed your problems from internal worries into another form.

Once your problems are in written form you can look at them and see what they are in the clear light of day. This will put you in a much better position to defeat the enemy by facing him. You will feel a great sense of relief once you have reduced your problems to writing. The tension disappears, and you will feel as if a great weight has been lifted.

Now, you can take this same ‘face your enemy’ approach to problem solving, decision-making, and goal achievement by realizing that there are similarities between all three of these. A decision that is to be made is little more than a problem awaiting a solution. Decisions are usually a simple problem, simple in the fact that we are rarely faced with more than two or three options. Whereas, when faced with a problem, we sometimes face what seems to be an endless line up of alternatives. And as for goal achievement, isn't a goal merely a point we wish to reach? The problem to be solved here is how to get from where we are now to where we want to be. So, problem solving, decision-making, and goal achievement are all closely related functions of creative thinking. It's important that we keep this in mind as we review the steps of using brainstorming for problem solving. 1. The first step of solving any problem (no matter how big or how small) is to define it. You should always understand the problem before you begin to work on the solution. Here, you can use the steps we discussed earlier. Sit down and write out the problem first in a brief sentence or two, three at the most. Review this statement of the problem, refine it, and add additional detail to it until it states exactly what the problem is that you would like to solve.

2. Then, write out everything you know about the problem. This information can come from your own personal experience, books you have read (which contain any kind of information including statistical data on the problem), or from friends and business associates who know something about the area in which the problem lies. One important consideration here is to never confuse facts with opinions. Make sure you know what you’re talking about and the problem is as real and as big as you think it is.

3. Next, write a list of names of people and organizations that can assist you with this problem. This list can be made up of people that are involved in the problem, recognized authorities in the area of the problem, or confidants that may have information you need to help solve the problem. This is your opportunity to go dig in deep for facts.

Now you have determined who can help you, contact them. Phone them, go see them, e-mail them or utilize any other method you choose, but contact them. Pick their brains for all information they possess that can help you solve your problem.

4. Take notes! Be sure to take detailed notes of information you receive that is relevant to the problem you are trying to solve. Do not take a chance of forgetting any little fact that could give you the solution you're searching for.

5. Personal brainstorming. This is where you put your mind to work in individual idea creation. Sit down, review the problem statement you wrote down in step one. Review the notes you have taken in steps two, three, and four. Now, sit back and think with the brakes of judgment off. This is no-holds-barred idea generation time. As your ideas begin popping into your head, do not try to decide whether they're good or bad. Just write them down! And write them down as fast as they come to you. You may find yourself having to use brief words, or shorthand of sorts, to get all the ideas down. Perhaps have a tape recorder handy to record your words and transcribe them later, but whatever you do, get your ideas down onto paper. Again, remember, don’t critique them, the time to pick and choose or rate your ideas will come later. Right now you're goal is a lot of ideas, so write them all down.

There are four basic rules for brainstorming. You need to know, and remember, them during your brainstorming sessions (be they individual or group sessions). They are:

No negative thinking allowed -- the wilder the ideas the better Suspend judgment -- ideas will be judged afterward during the rating process A large number of ideas is vital Combination and improvement ideas is what you are after

It's really important to write down every idea that you come up with. No matter how far-fetched or impractical the idea may be, you must write them down. You see, one idea often leads to another, and that to another. One idea can be built upon, or linked to another, making it a better idea. So, writing down even the far-fetched and whimsical ideas is as important as writing down the practical and convenient ideas.

Once you have completed your personal idea generation session, go back and rate your ideas. Rate them in two areas, effectiveness and facility. The effectiveness scale ranges from very effective, to probably effective, to doubtful. The facility scale ranges from easy, to not so easy, to difficult. Rating your ideas will clearly indicate the likely success of any of your possible solutions/ideas. When you have rated your ideas, you can review them with a quick glance to give first consideration to those ideas that are both effective and easy.

6. Group brainstorming. Now is the time to put the minds of others to work for you. The group brainstorming session is handled much like your individual idea creation session. The group brainstorming technique is where a number of people meet with a single purpose in mind, to think of as many ideas as possible, to solve one well-defined problem. In this case your problem.

Between five and ten participants generally is the best size for such a gathering. Studies show that any given number of people working on the same problem will be more than 50 percent more effective, (they will come up with at least half again more ideas than the same number of people working individually). Along with a chain reaction, one idea leading to another, there develops a friendly rivalry and personal interaction that increases individual performance during the brainstorming session.

It's advisable to let each member of the brainstorming session know in advance the problem to be worked on. Be sure to give them as clear a written statement of the problem as you can provide, (which you completed in step one). Knowing the problem, each of them can work from a few minutes to a few days on personal research and individual idea creation before the meeting. When the brainstorming group gathers, ensure each member of the group has a pad and pencil. This will allow them to capture ideas that might otherwise be lost before they're able to present them to the group. Assign someone to be the scribe, the task of taking notes, to record every idea that is produced. Later, these notes should be transcribed and passed along to the brainstormers for further idea creation/combination. Always have a leader, but keep the brainstorming session as informal as possible. The leader's job is to keep participants on task and keep the ideas flowing. Often the leader will be the one who comes up with the first idea to get discussion going. One good suggestion for developing discussion is for the leader to share his/her first idea, then move around the table to the next person, the next, and so on.

Before starting be sure to run briefly through the four important brainstorming rules. The same four rules apply here as before in individual idea creation: no negative thinking, no criticism at this stage, you want a large number of ideas, and combination/improvement of ideas as well. Once the rules are understood, let the brainstorming begin, attacking the problem from all sides and without let up. You will find that there's a chain reaction that takes place when the ideas start flowing. It will be like a string of firecrackers going off one right after the other. It is not unusual for ten people to come up with upwards of 100 ideas in ½ hour. So expect results!

Write down all the ideas the group comes up with. Do not criticize during the brainstorming session! Criticism is short death to brainstorming, and if someone in the group feels squelched he/she might be inhibited to share the innovative idea that could provide a breakthrough! Save the rating for the end or for another meeting entirely. Only after all the possible solutions have been written down do you screen them as you did before, for effectiveness and ease of implementation (facility).

Let’s talk in a bit more detail about rating your ideas. You’ve spent personal time generating ideas, gathering others, and they’ve invested their time in generating even more ideas. The final two steps that unfortunately are far too often under emphasized and slighted are evaluation and action. We must evaluate our idea(s), then take action on them. Even if the action is to scrap the idea, that’s at least an action! These are the final two steps in the brainstorm/creative thinking process.

Before implementation, ideas must be carefully rated. There are many scales that you can choose to use. I find the most useful are effectiveness (how effective will this idea be in solving my problem?) and facility (how easy/difficult will this idea be to implement?). These two areas offer a good two-way screen for you’re brainstorming ideas. If they don’t pass the muster here, the idea is likely to be a serious waste of time if/when implemented. During the rating session, remember, you’re now judging ideas. This is the time for cold, hard thinking.

7. Hone your list down to those ideas that received the highest ratings. Now rate these ideas in two additional areas time and cost. This list will result in a rough draft, or schedule, to putting the best ideas to work. Also rating these ideas in two additional areas could result in one idea being elected over another based on one or both of these new criteria.

When you've written an idea into the action plan, decide who might do it, when it might be done, where to start, and how to do it. These are important considerations! Be sure to give yourself a deadline for putting your ideas and plans into action. We work harder, and more efficiently, when we understand there is a definite timeline involved. To this end, make a note of the date you must begin working your plan and the date you must put your solution into action (a beginning date and an ending date as it were). Remember that timing is important when introducing new ideas so carefully calculate your ending date based on your current situation. Does this need to be resolved sooner or can it wait until later?

When you think you’ve come up with the perfect idea, I challenge you to take another look around the issue. Always try looking at it from new angles, stretching it, and improving it. Use original thinking rather than rut thinking (remember a rut is nothing more than a grave with the ends kicked out). This is one of the key factors that separate the creative thinkers from the rest of the pack.

For any problem, no matter how big, or how complex it may be, there is a solution. All you have to do is find it! And you can find it by organizing your approach, by attacking the problem methodically and with determination. By applying your full brainpower, and by using wisely all the help you can get, You can solve it.

Think Successfully & Take Action. Tracy (C) Tracy Brinkmann 2000-2005 all rights reserved Tracy Brinkmann is an goal setting and success counselor. Through his company Success Atlas, he provides goal-setting, motivational & educational material, & training via live presentations as well as digital/audio products. Sign up for his free e-Zine

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