[A version of this post first appeared on SynTAROTis.]
Brainstorming is about creating a list of ideas. You can use it, for example, to find creative ideas for a birthday present, a theme party, or improving the sales of a product.
The key to effective brainstorming is to come up with ideas without judging them. You can evaluate, sort, modify, combine, or reject ideas after brainstorming. To be effective, you should generate as many ideas as possible. The more ideas you have, the likelier you will find gold among the dross.
One of the variations on brainstorming is to use stimuli such as random words or images to spark the imagination, and this is where tarot comes in. Here are three ways to use the cards for brainstorming.
Variation 1: 78 ideas
Pick a deck with illustrations (story scenes) on all the cards. Pip cards can be beautiful, but for brainstorming, you need illustrations that tell a story. Examples are the Rider-Waite deck and its clones (like the Radiant Rider Waite or the Universal Waite), Robin Wood Tarot, Morgan Greer, Deviant Moon, Everyday Witch, anything from Magic Realist Press, anything from Ciro Marchetti, or the Golden Tarot.
You will also need a notebook or paper, and a pen to write down the ideas.
You can think of a problem, or just see whatever ideas come up.
Go through the deck, card by card, and write at least one idea per card. (You will find this technique also in Mark McElroy’s Putting the Tarot to work.) Move through the deck rapidly, but don’t rush. The idea is to prevent yourself from evaluating the ideas.
Use everything about the card as inspiration, including keywords usually associated with them.
The value of using all the cards in the deck is that you force your brain to come up with an idea per card. You will be surprised what comes up when you force your imagination like this. The ideas might not all be good ideas, but you will have a lot to sift through when, at the end of the brainstorming session, you look at your list of ideas.
If you feel the full deck of cards would be too much, use the Twos to Tens from every suit—these are usually the more evocative cards.
You may find surprising thoughts popping up: jokes, silly ideas, things your mother used to say, admonitions to yourself, snatches of songs, clichés, metaphors, memories. You will also find repetition—the same or similar thoughts cropping up. That’s okay, these will all be helpful to you. Repetitions could be important. These thoughts or ideas are “at the top of your mind,” even if you are not (yet) aware of them.
Watch out for thoughts that spark resistance in your mind. Why are you reluctant to think them? Why would an idea be frightening, or repulsive?
If you have never done this kind of brainstorming before, you may struggle initially, but the more you do it, the easier the ideas will flow.
Variation 2: Several ideas from one card
For this variation, you draw only one card and, using the image as inspiration, generate as many ideas as possible from this card.
Draw a card at random. Use only the Two to Ten cards to draw from if you wish.
While looking at the card, write down everything that comes to mind. Note any ideas or thoughts that pop into your head. You can use or ignore the interpretations usually associated with the card.
You can also set a time, for example 10 or 15 minutes during which you must think of ideas. This is another good way to force your brain to come up with ideas.
Reverse brainstorming is a fun technique that can help you view a problem from different angles.
The essence of reverse brainstorming is reversal—it is an upside-down and back-to-front way of looking at a problem which, while you are focusing on what you don’t want, helps you generate ideas for solving the problem. Reverse brainstorming can also help you pinpoint the causes of the problem.
In reverse brainstorming, use problem statements such as:
How could I cause this problem?
How can I make it worse?
What would be the worst possible thing to do?
Original problem: Sales of WidgetX is decreasing. How can we revive customers’ interest in this product?
Reverse statement: How can we discourage customers from buying WidgetX?
Brainstorm ideas for this reversed problem. Once you have your list of ideas, go through each of them for inspiration to solve the original problem.
Problem: How can we make the device harder to use?
Answer: Hide the buttons so the customer finds it difficult to switch it on.
Using this answer to find solutions to the original problem, you might come up with:
- Make the buttons even easier to find, perhaps by using a different colour.
- Do user testing by selecting people with various size hands to test the product (men, women, children).
- Make it easier to see what the various buttons do.
- Add raised symbols to the buttons that can be felt with the fingertips.
- Make sure a salesperson is available to answer questions (by providing a bell or button to call for help).
Reverse brainstorming is a fun way to look at what has gone wrong and to find solutions. The technique is especially useful when your other attempts at solving the problem have failed.