Headshot of Covington Doan by Paul Jun

Covington Doan

Blurting is a superpower

I do a lot of brainstorming sessions and I'm often asked, "How do you come up with so many good ideas?"

The truth is it's hard to know whether an idea will be good or not. If you can come up with more ideas, you will come up with more good ones.

You have a ton of ideas. Oftentimes, your inner critic is holding you back.

If you've seen an artificial intelligence play Pictionary, you may have noticed that it starts talking once you start drawing and keeps talking until it can confidently guess what you're trying to draw. It's really good at blurting out what it sees. "I see a line... a rectangle..."

Blurting is a great way to get more ideas out of your head. The less time an idea spends in your head the better.

Blurting is hard. It sometimes feels like you're interrupting or speaking out of turn. And that's exactly how it's supposed to feel. The goal is to get past your inner critic before it can judge an idea.

Blurting is a skill. It is something you can practice and improve. The best way to practice blurting is to put yourself in a context to blurt. Give yourself a prompt and try to write down as many ideas as you can in 10 minutes.

Coming up with ideas doesn't have to be an individual effort. Ask a few people to do a 15-minute brainstorming session with you. To help set the stage, IDEO has 7 simple rules that might help.

If your inner critic is still getting in your way, give it something else to measure and judge. Try setting a big goal: 100 ideas in 10 minutes. "Good" now becomes "Are there 100 ideas?"

With time and practice, the ideas will start to flow. The question will be can you draw, write, or type fast enough?