Have you ever had a problem that seemed impossible to solve? Maybe you had an incredibly complex paper to write and you didn’t know where to start. You had ideas, but they created a complete mess inside your head. Suddenly, you started feeling unable to write that paper and you felt less smart than the students who did it. We’ve all been in that situation.

There’s a technique that can stimulate the creative process and memory functions: brainstorming.

All students are working towards the same goal: becoming more intelligent and creative. Brainstorming is a well-known technique they use when writing papers, but did you know it was useful in the overall educational process?

Let’s focus on the brainstorming technique and explore how it can help you study and become smarter.

What Is Brainstorming?

Alex F. Osborn, an advertising executive, is credited as the author of the brainstorming technique, which he explained in the book Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Thinking, published in 1953. Since then, many research studies contributed to the base of information we have about this technique.

Here is a simple definition of the brainstorming process: it’s an informal approach to problem-solving based on lateral thinking. The indirect and creative approach to the problem allows us to see it in an unusual light.

During the brainstorming session, you start thinking of ideas and noting them down as they come to your mind. Some of the ideas will seem crazy, but they will spark even more ideas. It’s important to avoid criticizing or rewarding the ideas during this stage. You’re just noting them down and trying to open up all possibilities. At the end of the session, you will evaluate the ideas and explore the solutions further through critical thinking and proper research.

As we see, the conventional problem-solving techniques such as critical thinking, research and decision making are still valid. However, the creative, flexible process of idea generation before those stages gives us different perspective.

How Brainstorming Makes You a Better Student

    1. During brainstorming, you rely on your knowledge and experience to solve the particular problem. If, for example, you’re working on a science project and you’re brainstorming for ideas, you’ll unleash the base of information you’ve stored in your brain. That’s how you improve your memory functions and you relate previous knowledge to current issues.
    2. Brainstorming can help you get out of a blocked state of mind. If you give this technique a chance, you might think of ideas that you can turn into great academic content.
    3. With regular practice of brainstorming, you train your brain to think there are no dumb ideas. Maybe you’ll feel pressure to be creative the first time when you try to brainstorm. With time, you’ll get used to exploring all ideas, no matter how crazy they seem. Of course, the brainstorming stage will be followed by the critical process of reason, but at least you’ll have great ideas to consider by then.
    4. With brainstorming, you can build on other people’s ideas. It’s okay to use an idea that came from somewhere if you build your own approach on top of it. Needless to say, you’ll reference the source of that idea in your work, and you’ll explain how your approach is unique.

Brainstorming Techniques You Should Try

There’s no doubt about it: brainstorming is a useful way to generate ideas. With regular practice, you’re training your mind to think outside the box and give a chance to all ideas, no matter how unusual they seem at the moment. The only question is: how should that regular practice look like?

You can experiment with different brainstorming techniques to discover the one that triggers your creativity in the best possible way.

1. Answer Precise Questions

Sometimes you need to start from somewhere. Looking at a blank page that’s waiting for your ideas can be terrifying. Start with a list of questions:

    ● What’s the problem?
    ● What do I know about this issue?
    ● How can I solve it?

Generate questions that are precisely related to your topic. If, for example, you’re writing a paper on bullying, you can ask questions like these:

    ● Where does this behavior originate from?
    ● What makes bullies bully?
    ● How does someone feel when being bullied?
    ● How does someone feel when bullying another person?
    ● How can that person defend themselves?
    ● What can a teacher do to solve this problem?

Set your mind free and write all ideas triggered by a question. Try to write as many answers as possible, even if they seem contradictory to one another. Remember: the brainstorming process doesn’t have to be reasonable. It’s the quantity, not the quality of ideas that matters.

2. Start With the Bad Ideas

Research shows there’s loss of productivity in brainstorming groups, when the team leaders and other people in position of power are present. Do you know how some organizations solve this issue? They tell the group members to come up with bad ideas first. That’s a good way to loosen people up and get them into a creative state of mind.

You can copy this technique in your own brainstorming sessions. Spend 10 minutes thinking of bad ideas. That playful tone will get you going, and then you’ll intuitively start throwing good ideas on the list. Remember: a bad idea can spark good ones.

3. Doodle!

You could use an online brainstorming tool, such as Bubbl.us to keep track of your ideas. It’s cool because it lets you create a map of your ideas. However, it can also limit your creativity because you’ll feel forced to connect the ideas to one another. In brainstorming, the ideas should not necessarily be connected.

If this tool works for you, great! You can create visually-inspiring maps that will drive the creative process forward. If not, try doodling. Take a piece of paper and start drawing, writing in different fonts, creating tables, and mapping out ideas. Put your ideas on the paper in any format you feel like maintaining.

Have you seen Dostoevsky’s doodles? This brainstorming technique helped him create some of the most valuable pieces of literature the world has ever seen.

You can use the same technique during studying, so you’ll remember the information you process.

New Views Open New Perspectives

The brainstorming process may lead you to a completely different solution than the one you imagined. It will open up new perspectives for you to explore the assignments, and it might lead you to creative answers to essay questions. When you give your ideas a chance to grow, you may turn them into greatness. That’s how you develop your inner genius.

Author's Bio: 

Chris Richardson is a journalist and editor at EssayGeeks.co.uk. He is fond of traveling, sports, and playing the guitar. Chris finds his inspiration in writing. Meet him on on Facebook and Google+.