Brainstorming has such a bad name, perhaps, as a result of sessions where everyone is asked to a meeting room and then requested to generate ideas from the top of their minds. This approach can generate some ideas, but for many people more stimuli are needed to really get the creative juices flowing.

Here are three approaches that will give you greater direction and focus to help you and your team generate more, better quality ideas.

1. Brand Takeover

Identify brands and organisations, outside of your own particular markets, that excel in the specific areas in which you are trying to generate new growth ideas. For example, you may wish to consider Apple for product design and product integration, BMW for engineering quality, Ritz Carlton for excellence in customer service, Ryanair for focused, low-cost operations or Greenpeace for public relations and campaign management.

Select one or more of the companies and ask how they would approach the opportunity you are facing. Start by being literal and build ideas from there. What would the solution look like? Which customer groups would you be targeting? Who would be working to develop and deliver the solution? Where would resources be allocated? What would constitute success?

2. Time Machine

Going back in time enables you to re-learn what was important when the organisation was formed (or 25 or 50 years ago), and what is at the core of the company. Understanding how you were organised, who your customers were, how you delivered your product or service can help you find ways to take elements from your past and reinvent them for today’s environment.

Collect old advertisements, organisation charts, product brochures, customer lists and internal and external literature to generate ideas about how you can solve your current issue or opportunity. What worked before? What was ahead of its time? What could be relevant today with a twist or two?

3.  Tearing Up The Rule Book

Most major business breakthroughs – such as Dell’s direct computer sales model – involve changing the rules of an industry in some way. As organisations develop they establish rules and ways of working that become almost invisible.

To complete the exercise, list the major rules, assumptions and sacred cows that govern your industry, category or organisation. Select one or more of these rules and generate new ideas based on how you can ignore, get round or break the assumption.

© Stuart Cross 2011. All rights reserved.