Brainsteering your way to the perfect gift

Hands with a giftHow often do you shop for gifts?  Do you wait until the last minute before buying because you don’t know what to get?  What if I could describe a system that would help you find gifts that are more memorable and well received.  Would that interest you?

You can learn a lot from books.  One of the books I read recently is Brainsteering – A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas by Kevin & Shawn Coyne (check out the website here)  Very good book and I highly recommend it.  The basic premise of the book is that a common idea generation technique, brainstorming, does not work efficiently since it is unfocused.  By focusing people’s attention on the right questions and providing just enough structure, the whole process can be much more efficient and the chances of finding unique solutions increases drastically.  Kevin & Shawn Coyne call it Brainsteering.

Brainsteering works by deciding on a question; something that is very specific and often looks at the problem or issue from another viewpoint.  Then, by using the right process, people can focus their energies into answering those very specific questions and be more efficient generating ideas.  For a complete explination of how things work, please read the book or visit the Brainsteering website.

The gift finding process

The Brainsteering process starts by identifying the right questions but, what are the right questions?  It really depends on the situation, but if you commit to using the Brainsteering process, you need to work on developing a database of effective questions.  Here are some mentioned in the book:

What was their favorite toy, hobby, or activity during the period of their life on which they look back most fondly?

What event or accomplishment in their life are they most proud of?

What place, person, or group of people were they once very fond of, but have since lost touch with?

What would be the ultimate experience associated with his hobby or interest, and how could he have that experience (or a proxy for it)?

Is there a new invention that dramatically changes how well she can perform an important aspect of her hobby, or even her daily routine?

What pleasant secret or experience do only the two of you share?

What is the perfect gift that only he could give you – and what does that tell you about the perfect gift that you could give him?

What do you do better than most people, but have never used to create a gift before? (This one can be terrific, but only if you have never done it before)

Again, having the right questions is very important and your database of questions evolve over time with the Brainsteering process. The more you Brainsteer, the better you get.

The next step in the process, once you have your question, is to devote 15 minutes to answering it.  Think about only that question for 15 minutes, no more, no less.  Write down every answer you can think of, no matter how strange, silly, or out-of-the-box it is.

Now, go to the next question and repeat the process.  It is best not to do more than a few questions before taking a break.  If you want do Brainsteer in a group, limit your group (or groups) to three or four people as larger groups tend to overwhelm and suppress the more timid members.

How I Brainsteered to find this years Christmas gifts

This past Christmas, I needed a gift for my wife.  I decided to use my new found knowledge and Brainsteer my way to the perfect gift (or at least, a very thoughtful gift).  Now, I am a very thoughtful husband (and modest…).  I did not want to buy yet another gift that is appreciated, but not really liked or useful.  My first step was to select a question.  After looking at them and thinking about it for a few days, I decided on the following questions:

What was their favorite toy, hobby, or activity during the period of their life on which they look back most fondly?

What would be the ultimate experience associated with her hobby or interest, and how could she have that experience (or a proxy for it)?

Looking at these two questions, I began to build a list of options.  I could take her to a movie (one she actually picks by herself) since she really likes going to the movies.  I could buy her some painting supplies (especially watercolor) since she really likes creating art, painting, and drawing.  I could buy her a book since she likes reading (especially a book about writing a book, which she is doing).  So many choices…

In the end, I chose several.  We usually exchange two or three small gifts and we always try to purchase something for the kids to give (since they are still young).  Her gift list this year included a horseback riding lesson, a book about writing a book (Stephen King’s On Writing), and an assortment of art supplies.  She was happy, especially with the horseback riding lessons since she really, REALLY, likes horses (and pretty much all animals).

Brainsteering is a great concept and process.  It allows you to focus and come up with more creative and innovative solutions than unfocused efforts.  As with anything, it takes practice.  Why not use Brainsteering to find your next gift?  I think you will be glad you did.

(Photo taken by asenat29)

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