6 Tips for Using ChatGPT to Brainstorm Better

LinkedIn influencers use ChatGPT as a brainstorming aid, should you?

OpenAI’s chatbot responds in a conversational tone to text prompts, and millions of users continue to experiment with it. The chatbot helps software developers with codingscientists with research, and students with homework. With a little repetition and exploration, ChatGPT is worth trying out as part of your brainstorming process.

Business leaders can use it to consider multiple approaches for crucial conversations or long-term decisions. Adventurous couples can ignite discussions with ChatGPT about their next romantic adventure. Nerdy journalists can waste half of their afternoon spitballing ideas to cover niche smartphone games.

Keep in mind that the tool sometimes gives incorrect responses, so approach a chatbot’s answers with healthy skepticism. Make sure to double-check any sources it cites to make sure they actually say what the AI thinks it says, or if they even exist. Also, ChatGPT is trained on data that’s not completely up to date. Best to keep your questions about sports scores, restaurant hours, and movies to watch for Google or the new Bing.

You can sign up for a free ChatGPT account on OpenAI’s website. Want the most powerful version responding to your brainstorming prompts? Consider paying $20 a month for ChatGPT Plus with GPT-4. It’s fun to play around with other chatbots as well, like Jasper and Google’s Bard, to see how your answers compare.

Find a Clear Starting Point

Just because an algorithm is involved does not mean everything changes about the process. A good brainstorm still starts with a strong premise. Find your core question or topic of exploration. Use this information to try multiple approaches to your prompts. 

Ask the chatbot a bunch of short questions in quick succession. OK, what happens if you craft longer prompts? Experiment to see whether you get better answers from a one-paragraph prompt or a three-paragraph prompt.

Gauge the Limitations and Biases of the Tool

Before getting too far into your AI-assisted brainstorm, take some time to learn even more about chatbots, what they excel at, and what they struggle with. 

For example, WIRED’s guidelines on generative AI let reporters play with ChatGPT for story ideas and research help. These two aspects are sooner in the creative process and leave room for refinement. I tried to brainstorm different approaches with ChatGPT about this article on AI brainstorming, and some of the options were quite fascinating, while others weren’t. Which sounds like a typical brainstorm! 

WIRED reporters are not allowed to insert text from a chatbot as if it were their own, because it could add false statements and biases to their reporting.

Keep Your Prompts Persistent

Ask the same question over and over again, with small tweaks, to see how the chatbot responds. The more you ask, the more likely you are to come across a response that sticks out as novel or especially helpful.

Start your brainstorm focused, but don’t be afraid to follow up on a fascinating idea. Request more context about anything that piques your interest. If it goes completely off-topic, or the vibes are just weird, consider starting a new chat session to keep it all sorted.

Ask for Long Lists, Better Lists, and Weirder Lists

I asked ChatGPT to make a list of 50 unique brainstorm uses, and it recommended using the chatbot to come up with marketing strategies, study techniques, and date ideas. I asked for 50 additional ideas that were more creative than the first answer. The chatbot suggested using AI to brainstorm ideas for pet enrichment activities, soundscapes, and space colonization. How about a few absolutely wild brainstorm topics? ChatGPT proposed mulling over some crazy ideas with AI, like telepathic communication devices, emotion-powered transportation, and plant-human hybrid gardens.

Alright, maybe that last prompt wasn’t very productive. But the answers did make me giggle for a bit, and that’s a crucial moment in the brainstorming process. Even though aspects of a chatbot’s answer might be rote and uninspired, if you take the time to browse through multiple lists from the chatbot, you may catch a glimmer of something you could make your own.

Mock Up a Few Examples

Trying to think of everything you should pack for a trip to Brazil? Or, maybe you’re in search of a prudent response to angry emails from your boss? Ask ChatGPT for examples of how it would complete the larger task at hand. While these practice attempts with AI are unlikely to give you a finished product, keep an eye out for useful concepts and structures underpinning the chatbot’s responses.

Stay Open-Minded about Potential Applications

Avoid pigeonholing AI as solely a tool for work. Sure, AI-assisted brainstorms can help white-collar workers in the office. But it can also help a teenager in their bedroom come up with ideas for seething journal entries. Or a grandparent consider which new vegetables to grow in their backyard garden. Why limit the possibilities? No matter the topic, play around with chatbots and your next brainstorm could be even more fruitful.

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