Yes, brainstorming can turn a paper clip into a house. More on that in a moment. First, a question. Have you ever had a brainstorming session where people sat around hesitating to contribute? If so, you can understand how important having the right frame of mind is. Members of the group need to feel free to throw their ideas out there no matter how crazy they are. They need to be open to new ideas and thinking creatively. The following little warm up exercise that will help with both of these.

A Warm Up Brainstorming Exercise

Before you start your session, and start addressing the serious problems and projects, do a brainstorming practice exercise. I and my wife recently participated in this brainstorming exercise at a financial seminar. A paper clip was the object used in that case, but any common object will work.

First divide the participants into groups of two-to-five people. Then choose an object and have everyone write down as many ways as they can think of to use it. A prize for the group that comes up with the most uses will add some competitive incentive. However, don't specify that the ideas have to be good or in any way judged - the prize should go strictly for quantity.

This is important, because this exercise is supposed to get everyone into a creative and open state of mind. Any and all ideas should be thrown out there without fear. In any brainstorming, the judging of ideas should always come at a later stage and - in the case of this exercise - never. Encourage everyone to be thinking crazy and even funny thoughts. Humor helps.

Have a time limit for this - perhaps ten minutes or less. The idea is to purposefully rush this exercise a bit in order to get everyone thinking fast and speaking before they have time to analyze their ideas. The speed helps get people out of the habit of self-censorship.

The ideas our group came up with at the seminar included using a paper clip to pick locks, to clean out ears, as a fishhook and a picture hanger. In five minutes, we had just twenty ideas. The winning group? They had written down over thirty-five uses for a paper clip.

When the exercise is over, there should be some excitement in the air, and their really ought to be some laughter too. A paper clip for an weapon? Now you're ready to start the brainstorming session, and start attacking the important problems and projects - and in the right frame of mind.

Let the group know how crazy ideas can sometimes lead to really valuable insights and plans, by telling them the following true story:

Canadian Kyle MacDonald turned a paper clip into a house. It started when he traded his large red paper clip with someone online for a fish-shaped pen. Then he traded the pen for a hand-made ceramic doorknob. he continued "trading up" until thirteen trades and a year later, he made his final trade and moved into a new house with no mortgage. Powerful brainstorming.

Author's Bio: 

Steve Gillman has been studying brainpower and related topics for years. For more on How To Increase Brain Power, and to get the Brain Power Newsletter and other free gifts, visit: