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Brain writing has come to the forefront again as a creative assistance tool. Companies are realizing brainstorming, as its currently handled, is deeply flawed, as I documented in Marketing Red Belt years ago. Why? Brainstorming suffers from group dynamics, most notably what I call the HIPPO problem: the Highest Individually Paid Person’s Opinion tends to be most dominant. Thus, idea quantity and quality suffers.

If you’ve never done brain writing, it’s essentially ideation. From Marketing Red Belt:

To do the idea burn, we follow a simple method called a 3 x 3 x 3. Using the timer on your wearable technology, smartphone, computer, or just a clock, mark a 3 minute period where you will do nothing else except capture idea fragments. These can be words, phrases, bullet points, audio recordings, doodles, etc. but the goal is to generate as many idea fragments as possible in a 3 minute time period.

Once you have your compilation of ideas, identify 3 of them that you think are the strongest. Circle them, underlined them, or do something that sets them aside for you. Set your clock for another 3 minutes and expand on those 3 ideas as much as you can, creating as many details as possible about each of your ideas.

One of the newest twists on brain writing is collaborative brain writing, in which you share your ideas – in writing – with your coworkers and they write additional ideas of their own based on your shared ideas. You, in turn, do the same.

While I love this idea, what if you don’t have like-minded coworkers? What if you have coworkers who aren’t open to the idea, or you don’t trust for whatever reason? What if you have no other coworkers?

We have a coworker we can turn to in situations like this. We have a constant colleague, one which has reasonable confidentiality, excellent intelligence, and no ego to please or threaten. This coworker is Google. Google accepts very complex queries – like our ideas – and returns a panoply of search results.

For example, suppose we had an idea for CO2-infused coffee (as opposed to the standard nitrogen-infused). A quick search of the idea reveals that while other folks have had similar questions, most of the infusion with coffee these days is with nitrogen:

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Thus, we might conclude that our idea has some additional validity, or could use further tinkering.

Got an idea that has extensive popularity already? Look for new ideas with Google Trends based on what people are searching for. Let’s take our coffee example. People already search for nitro coffee. What else do they search for? We see dozens of topics and related queries at the bottom of Google Trends which can give us additional brainstorming ideas:

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We also see a geographic artifact – the search volume for nitro coffee is almost entirely within the United States. What if you’re Italian and you want to boost your coffee shop’s appeal? Perhaps trying out a nitro system would allow you to be one of the first shops in Italy to participate in the nitro coffee phenomenon.

These ideas, these branches of thought, should give your brain writing an extra jolt. As an added bonus, you’ll find out what’s already been done with an idea, which will help you further refine your ideas for maximum quality and originality.

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