10 effective brainstorming ideas and techniques

10 effective brainstorming ideas and techniques

Brainstorming is an art. To make the most of this process, it’s important to understand that brainstorming needs to have some structure and thus goes through several phases. 

Brainstorming sessions generally have three stages: idea cultivation, discussion and analysis, and then select. The following strategies will help your team — whether in-person or remote — work through all three stages. 

These group brainstorming techniques will help structure your brainstorming session for maximum efficiency: 

1. Brainwriting 

This is a nonverbal group brainstorming technique where everyone writes down three ideas that relate to the topic of the brainstorming. Allow at least five minutes for this process before everyone passes their ideas to the person on their right, who will then build off the ideas, by adding bullet points or creative strategies. If your team is remote, they can use communication platforms to share ideas. After another few minutes, everyone will pass the piece of paper again until it has made its way to every participant. Once all the ideas have been passed by every member of the group, it’s time to discuss and decide which ideas to pursue. 

This technique ensures balanced conversation so that all participants have the opportunity to contribute, and helps eliminate biases. 

2. Rapid ideation 

In rapid ideation, everyone writes down as many ideas as possible in a set amount of time before any ideas are discussed or fleshed out. For this brainstorming session, you will need to set, and stick to, a time limit to keep everyone focused with a sense of urgency. 

Brainstorming ideas using this technique avoids the common scenario when an idea is shot down before it has time to grow, transform, and develop. The time constraint prevents people from talking themselves out of an idea before they share it with a group — a common brainstorming mishap.

3. Figure storming

In figure storming, the group picks a well-known figure who is not in the room — it could be your boss, a fictional character, or a well-known public figure — to discuss how that person would approach the problem or think about this idea. For example, you might ask, “How would the president (of your country) / monarch/superman / Tesla, etc. approach this problem?” It can be any well-known figure. 

The point of this brainstorming technique is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes in order to help your team approach the problem in a different way. Some teammates may be hesitant to put forth their creative ideas, but if someone else’s name is attached to the idea, they may be more likely to share it. 

4. Eidetic image method

This is a visualization-based method for brainstorming ideas that are recommended by author and psychologist Jacqueline Sussman. The method utilizes vivid images stored in our minds from all of our life experiences and works best when the goal isn’t necessarily to reinvent the wheel but rather to enhance it. This is a good business innovation technique. While the group should not focus on costs, their ideas should remain in the realm of possibility.

It begins with intention setting, where the group closes their eyes and clearly sets an intention for what they will create (for example, an innovative bicycle). In this case, each person in the group sets the intention they will come up with a new high-tech bicycle design.

After these intentions are set, you will have everyone close their eyes again and pull forth the first eidetic image: the company’s current bicycle design. Once everyone in the group has that image in their mind, you can all begin building upon that design. 

Ask the group to picture the current design in their favorite color, ideal shape, and size. Then ask them to add features they wish the current design had originally included. After everyone has an image of their ideal bicycle design in their mind, randomly ask a team member to share exactly what their enhanced version looks like. Once they’ve shared, record that idea. Now have everyone picture the new version of the product and you can begin layering ideas on top of it. In the end, you can end up with hundreds of new concrete ideas to develop from. 

5. Online brainstorming, aka brain netting 

For this group brainstorming technique, you will need a central location for team members to write down their ideas. If all of your employees are in the same time zone, you can host real-time brainstorms online to develop ideas together. 

Suppose your team is distributed around various locations. In that case, you can put together a running Google doc that lets team members write down their ideas whenever inspiration hits, allowing for busy schedules and time differences. For teams in the same city, one option is to use WeWork All Access to book a conference room or common space for in-person brainstorming sessions.

After everyone writes down their ideas, it’s important to follow up to decide which ideas to pursue, so this technique is best used to capture ideas, with separate meetings for analysis, planning, and execution. 

This is a good brainstorming technique to engage remote employees as it puts everyone on the same playing field. It can also allow team members to contribute anonymously for more freedom of expression. 

6. Round-robin brainstorming 

Each member generates ideas in round-robin brainstorming as everyone has to contribute one idea to the brainstorming session. The first rule is that everyone in the group has to propose one idea before a second idea may be proposed and that there is no discussion or analysis until one round is complete. The second rule is that no one is allowed to indicate that their idea was already proposed. All ideas are welcome. This technique works best when the team has had some time to prepare ideas before the brainstorming session. 

7. Step-ladder technique

Although somewhat complex, the step-ladder technique is a useful way to ensure the group isn’t heavily influenced by the first few ideas, or by the most expressive people in the room. This brainstorming session takes a bit of time and therefore isn’t ideal for large groups.

To use the step-ladder technique, a facilitator first introduces the brainstorming topic, and then everyone has to leave the room except for two people. If you’re working with remote team members, you can use breakout rooms in a video conferencing app to do this. The two team members brainstorm together for a few minutes before a third person comes back into the room and shares some of their ideas, before discussing the ideas that the first two had. Individuals return to the room one by one, sharing their ideas before learning about the other ideas that have been discussed. Outside the room, the other teammates can either continue to brainstorm and write down ideas, or go back to individual work, but they should not discuss their ideas with anyone until they are inside the room. 

8. Mind mapping

Sometimes, the first idea shared with the group isn’t the right idea, but it sparks three better ideas — that’s when it’s best to use mind mapping. With this brainstorming technique, the group uses visual diagrams to depict the exploration of ideas. It starts with one idea, and then you draw lines connecting sub-ideas to the first one. In the end, you have a visual representation of the development process of your ideas, which makes it easy to revisit if you need to. 

9. Starbursting 

Starbursting is best used for brainstorming ideas when a group has already selected an idea and is ready to develop it further with the goal of taking it to the execution phase. 

In a starburst brainstorming session, your team will start with an idea or challenge at the center, and then create a six-point star around it. Each point represents a question: who, what, when, where, why, and how? For example, who is this product targeting? When would be a good time to launch it? What is our motivation for creating this product? 

As it focuses on questions rather than answers, starbursting encourages the group to examine an idea from every angle and work on generating solutions together.

10. Change of scenery

If your team is always in the same space, moving your brainstorming outside to a different environment can help get new ideas flowing. Physical space plays a big part in how employees work, think, and feel. A team constantly brainstorming together in the same room, with the same group of people, can leave the brainstorming sessions feeling flat, repetitive, and uninspiring. A change of scenery, even for a short period of time, can help people think differently, invigorate their energy, and help generate new ideas. With intelligently designed co-working and meeting spaces, WeWork offers a change of scenery for your next productive brainstorming session.

Five tips for running effective group brainstorming sessions

These tips can help you get the most out of your brainstorming sessions, no matter which technique you choose to use: 

  1. Allow people time to prepare. The pressure of on-the-spot creativity is not an easy task, so factor in some prep time. Be sure to prompt your team so they have time to come up with ideas on their own. This means at least one full day before the brainstorming, rather than 10 minutes before.
  2. Set a clear intention. Are you looking for very feasible, we-can-make-this-happen-this-month ideas, or are you looking for never-been-done-before ideas? Make sure your desired outcome is clear before the meeting begins. 
  3. Invite new people. To avoid things becoming stale, invite fresh perspectives to shake things up, and make sure that you invite people from different backgrounds and teams. This will re-energize your team. 
  4. Foster an inclusive, supportive environment and let people know that there are no bad ideas. Make sure you referee the brainstorming session so that nobody’s ideas get shot down too quickly, otherwise you risk people feeling uncomfortable about sharing and subsequently withholding brilliant ideas. 
  5. Make sure you follow up on your brainstorming sessions in order to bring these ideas to life. Be sure to set aside time to narrow down your ideas and pursue a few in a structured manner. 

Benefits of team brainstorming 

Team brainstorming is great for building team morale because they get to work together towards a common goal, creating a synergy of collaboration and collective problem-solving. 

It also promotes creative thinking, giving team members a chance to get their creative juices flowing in a space that is dedicated purely to that purpose.

Further, brainstorming in a group setting can yield better results than brainstorming on your own because everyone comes with their own strengths and perspectives, and the sheer volume of ideas generated from a group far outweighs anything that could be achieved individually. 

If you’d like to learn more about our flexible co-working spaces designed to support creativity and innovation, please visit wework.tw to connect with us today.

Growth Innovation
brainstorming ideas
brainstorming session
brainstorming techniques
group brainstorming ideas
group brainstorming techniques