Looking for some handy brainstorming techniques?
Everyone’s used brainstorming to solve a problem at least once in their life.
And if you’re not sure if you have, here’s something to jog your memory:
So there’s a new project. But you’re not sure how to go about it.
You and your team sit in a circle, and everyone is encouraged to voice out every wild idea that comes to mind.
No idea is too crazy.
And every unusual idea turns out to be a great idea.
That’s the power of brainstorming!
However, that isn’t the only way to brainstorm.
There are different brainstorming methods and you need to choose the best one for you and your team.
And we’re here to help.
This article covers everything you need to know about brainstorming and the top brainstorming techniques you can use.
- Things That Happen During A “Typical” Brainstorming Meeting
- How To Get Into The Creative Mindset?
- What Are The 2 Types Of Brainstorming?
- What Are The 4 Rules Of Brainstorming?
- The Top 6 Brainstorming Techniques
- How To Refine and Prioritize Your Ideas
- Why You Should Consider New Creative Brainstorming Techniques
Let’s get storming!
Things That Happen During A “Typical” Brainstorming Meeting
Brainstorming meetings, like any meeting, sometimes don’t go according to plan. Let’s take a look at the things that usually happen during a brainstorming meeting.
One of three things usually happens in a “typical” brainstorming meeting:
- The most extroverted people share their ideas while the introverted nod along, limiting their thoughts, and as a result, fewer ideas are shared
- People only share ideas they think their boss will like even if they have better ideas
- Everyone would rather be doing “real” work than thinking up forced solutions
All that said, we really do believe there is power in brainstorming. But there are rules, and they can be stretched without being broken.
How To Get Into The Creative Mindset?
It’s one thing to sit down and brainstorm; it’s another to do it effectively.
Before you start brainstorming, you need to have an open mind, literally.
The best brainstorming sessions start before anyone enters the room.
For instance, it’s hard to jump from a meeting about budgets into directly thinking about the grandest of possibilities. Your mind will be constrained, and you won’t be free-flowing; you’ll probably be guarded and cautious.
So here’s how you shed some of those inhibitions to let the best ideas float to the top:
Take a quick break to release stress and let yourself and your subconscious take in some fresh air to clear things up and get yourself ready for your brainstorming session.
Besides, a little pre-brainstorming exercise never hurt nobody! 🕺
Stuck with The Economist? Pick up Better Homes & Gardens.
Always watching CNN? Flip to the Travel Channel.
Try something else.
If you’re always reading and consuming the same information, you’ll want to make new associations. It may help you to glance through a magazine, an image website, or something completely unrelated to what you’ll be brainstorming about to help you have a fresh state of mind.
I don’t know exactly what this means for you, but find a way to do it before you brainstorm.
This could be going out for lunch, running a quick errand, or using the office ping-pong table for the first time. Breaking your routine will free you from a typical rut and put you in the right frame of mind for effective creative problem solving.
What Are The 2 Types Of Brainstorming?
There are two types of brainstorming:
Individual brainstorming and group brainstorming.
The former works better for simple problems that need simple solutions, and the latter can be used to solve complex problems.
Let’s take a look:
Individual brainstorming is like going on a date with your thoughts.
You talk to each other about your random ideas, and suddenly, those unconventional ideas turn into tangible solutions.
We’re sorry if this wasn’t as romantic as The Bachelor.🌹
However, during individual brainstorming, if you don’t break the rules during your brainstorm session, then no one will. You’ll also fall into the trap of listening to others’ ideas and avoid generating ideas of your own.
Hopefully, your individual brainstorming is successful enough to help you be like this during the next team meeting…
The problem with individual brainstorming is that you might not develop ideas to their fullest as you would in a group brainstorming session.
With group brainstorming, team members can help one another out when they get stuck on an idea; another team member with more knowledge on that idea can throw in suggestions.
After all, two heads are better than one, right?
Other benefits are that it enhances team building, and it reminds team members that everyone has unique ideas to offer to the team.
What Are The 4 Rules Of Brainstorming?
Brainstorming rules are essential because they help guide discussion and ensure everyone has a fair shot at being heard during the brainstorming session.
Here are the four rules:
- Focus on quantity, not quality
- Don’t criticize any bad idea until it’s time to prioritize
- Encourage big ideas
- Build on ideas from others
These rules ensure that your team will have a successful brainstorming session.
Okay, okay, we’re gonna stop calling them rules because no one likes rules, especially when you’re supposed to be “creative” and let the creative ideas flow, right?
Okay, so no rules. Just think of them as “guidelines.”
The Top 6 Brainstorming Techniques
1. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is one of the best brainstorming techniques because it lets you brainstorm thoughts without worrying about structure and order.
A mind map consists of concepts that are linked to and arranged around a central idea.
Not to mention, mind maps are fun because you get to turn boring information into colorful and memorable diagrams.
And who doesn’t love colorful diagrams?
So, that one great idea is out there; you just have to find it.
And the mind map will lead you to the promised land (potentially).
And with ClickUp’s Mind Maps feature, there is no “potentially,” there’s only “definitely.”
What’s ClickUp’s Mind Maps feature?
ClickUp’s Mind Maps help you transform your fresh ideas into beautiful, well-organized mind maps.
You can also share them with your team with a click of a button. This way, everyone in your team can visualize the workflow and collaborate on any adjustments.
Whether it’s a regular problem-solving session or you’re trying to get your team’s creative juices flowing, you can use ClickUp’s Mind Maps feature for the ultimate visual outline.
To create a mind map in ClickUp, you can either choose the Task mode or the Blank mode.
With Task mode, you can visualize the structure of your existing ClickUp tasks. Use task mode to map out a project’s workflow and rearrange tasks into logical paths. You can also create, edit, and delete tasks right from your view.
If you want to get even more creative, then go for ClickUp’s Blank mode.
In Blank mode, you can create mind maps from scratch. The nodes don’t have to connect to any task structure. Create as many nodes as you like and convert them into tasks in any Task List in your Workspace when you’re ready!
As you can see, there are so many awesome colors to choose from! 😍
With ClickUp’s Mind Maps feature, you can turn every ideation session into something truly your own!
Read more about how to use the Mind Maps feature here.
2. Personal Idea Pad Quadrant
This is what people mean when they say “think outside of the box.”
By associating unrelated concepts together, you’re able to tackle the problem in a different way.
But how does a personal idea pad quadrant work?
What triggers those unrelated concepts?
This is what makes or breaks brainstorming.
Henry breaks down the challenge into four different quadrants and then asks you to combine words and ideas from one quadrant to another.
This a template from the Accidental Creative website:
Here’s how it works:
- Start with a challenge: This is the problem statement.
- Solution: What immediate solutions have you thought of that could solve the challenge? These are the typical ideas that have come to mind or even something you’ve tried in the past
- Role or WW( )D? That’s What Would (BLANK) Do? Here’s where it gets interesting. Ask yourself this question: who do you think could solve this specific problem for you? Let’s say you want to market a new social media platform but for dog owners (yes, they exist)
- Who is the answer to your question? Mark Zuckerberg. But also Cesar Milan. Or it could be a generic role, like the president of the largest pet owners meetup in your area. You get the picture. This is also known as figuring storming or role storming
- Nutshell: This is one word or phrase that sums up the challenge in a new way
- Assumption: List out any of the reasons or assumptions that people have with the problem and the challenge. What are some of the complications or factors that add to this challenge?
- Combine!: Start by taking one item from one of the quadrants and pair it with a word from another quadrant. What are some of the ideas that come to mind? How could these two things together solve your problem?
If you like this quadrant layout, check out this template for SWOT Analysis!
This is one of the most common brainstorming techniques that’s usually best done in teams. After all, teamwork makes the dream work, right?
Here’s how brainwriting works:
- A team leader or facilitator will throw out a wild idea
- Each participant on the team will write down an idea
- Then, after a few minutes, the piece of paper is passed to the next participant, who then builds on the idea or adds another new idea
Do this for four or five rounds with a group of people (6–10), and you’ll have a ton of ideas.
The facilitator will then review the ideas during a break, select the ones he or she likes best and then return to the group to build and construct a plan on those ideas.
The Brainwriting technique works because:
- No one knows exactly who wrote what and when
- People are freer to express their ideas
- The team lead still has control over what’s happening by selecting the top ideas for group discussion
Cousin to brainwriting, the brainwalking technique is a similar concept, except people move instead of the paper.
Pieces of paper are hung on a wall; people add their idea to solve the problem and then move to the next paper. This is a great way to take ideas public and generate a new type of energy by thinking on your feet.
This is similar to idea #2.
Instead of four quadrants and combining ideas from there, you’re combining ideas from a grid.
Follow these steps to get started:
- If you are the team leader, fill in the top header row and the first column with the same idea and then move along the top and along the column
- Have each participant from your team suggest an idea and add it to the grid
- Then start combining ideas, one from each row, all the way down
- If you start with 4 ideas, you’ll have 16 new ones just by combining them together. It may feel odd to combine the same idea together (like Idea 2 + Idea 2), but creativity will ensue, promise.
|Idea 1||Idea 2||Idea 3||Idea 4|
|Idea 1||Ideas 1 +1||1 +2||1 + 3||1 + 4|
|Idea 2||Ideas 2 + 1||2 + 2||2 + 3||2 + 4|
|Idea 3||Ideas 3 + 1||3 + 2||3 + 3||3 + 4|
|Idea 4||Ideas 4 + 1||4 + 3||4 + 3||4 + 4|
When the ideas are really bubbling up, bubble brainstorm maps are the way to go!
Bubble maps are an easy way to jot down and organize ideas in a visual framework during a brainstorming session.
Use these steps for the bubble brainstorming technique:
- Draw 9 circles on a page, three in each row. These are your bubbles
- In the very middle, list the problem you’re trying to solve
- And then list out eight other creative ideas around that main idea
- Once you have generated ideas, start the process over again. So you’ll take idea number five, place that in the middle, and build out more ideas around that
This brainstorming technique is an excellent combination of mixing teams with individual contributions. It’s a great brainstorming method for creative problem solving.
Your team members may come up with eight ideas, and then you could assign an idea to each individual and they could work alone. Everyone can rejoin to see the results of your brainstorming bubble.
How To Refine and Prioritize Your Ideas
Your whole team had a great time brainstorming.
And everyone has come up with at least one creative idea.
Generating wild, crazy ideas is the easy part.
Now it gets a bit more difficult. You have to figure out which ideas are worth pursuing and which should go in the trash.
If you want to separate the great ideas from the good ideas, you have to refine your ideas.
But how can your team do this?
Try these methods and creative approaches:
Option 1: Dots
Relist all of your top ideas on a board or piece of paper, and give each team member a sticker dot (or use checkmarks). Team members must put their dot next to the idea they like the best.
Option 2: Pros & Cons
For each idea, list out the pros and cons. Because you (hopefully) have a lot of ideas to go through, limit this to only a few pros and a few cons.
List out the reasons why the idea will or won’t work.
This method will help you decide what’s feasible and what can be executed. As we all know, the best idea is sometimes the hardest to do. This is where your team can start to make those value judgments.
Option 3: Face Off
No, it’s not time to watch a cheesy mid-90s Nic Cage film.
Instead, you want your ideas to “face off” against one another to claim the first place. They’re all vying for the top spot.
Here’s how it would work.
- Say you have 10 ideas. List them out one through ten
- Then start ranking them from the bottom up in pairs. Compare 9 and 10. Is 10 a better idea than 9? Move it up. What about 7 and 8? 5 and 6?
- Each idea faces off for a higher spot. The next time around, try two pairs that you didn’t do before (like 8 and 9 would face off, instead of 9 and 10 and so on). Keep using this method until your best idea comes out on top
Why You Should Consider New Creative Brainstorming Techniques
You’ve probably tried a few if not every technique we discussed when forced to in a group or team building session.
But have you ever tried them unprompted?
Regular brainstorming and ideation will help you come up with new ideas, think of new ways to solve problems and help your team collaborate better in real-time.
If you’re still not convinced, check out this post on why you should re-evaluate your brainstorming strategy.
But, don’t take the whole thing too seriously…
Remember, you’re brainstorming.
You’re coming up with ideas. Just because you write it down doesn’t mean it’s permanent. So feel free to experiment with every technique, and next time someone wants you to think outside the box, you’ll be prepared.
Note: These are not all of the best brainstorming methods available. Here are a few honorable mentions:
- Round Robin Brainstorming: Round Robin is a traditional brainstorming method where team members sit in a circle and a topic is shared, then everyone gets a turn to share an original idea.
- Rapid Ideation: this brainstorming technique involves getting team members to churn out ideas within a set time limit. Rapid ideation works because time limitations can lead to faster idea generation (you don’t have time to overthink!)
- Associative brainstorming: this brainstorming technique involves associating adjectives with your problem word. The goal is to help your team gain a different perspective on the problem
- Whiteboard: for this brainstorm method, ideas are pinned to a digital whiteboard or flipchart and worked out with cards and pins. Questions, goals, and tasks are combined and everyone in the team uses a sticky note, like the ones from Post-It, to pin an idea to it
- Starbursting: this is a method of brainstorming that focuses on brainstorming questions and not answers
- Six Thinking Hats: team members wear six different hats, and each represents a point of view. This helps the team come up with a number of ideas from different angles
- Stepladder Technique: this is a step-by-step approach that forces every team member to present their own ideas
- Reverse Brainstorming: contrary to regular brainstorming, this method focuses on all the problems first
- Brain Netting: this is an online brainstorming technique commonly used for virtual group brainstorm sessions
Note: Since most of these techniques involve team members adding their ideas to a note or document, try out ClickUp Docs for this. It’s an easy-to-use document collaboration solution that lets your team collaborate in real-time!
While you can always have a brainstorming meeting without using any brainstorming methods, it doesn’t give your team a sense of direction or an organized space for creative thinking.
However, with creative brainstorming techniques, that isn’t an issue.
With techniques that help you with ideation to techniques that let you compare different ideas, brainstorming techniques help teams find solutions for the most complex problems.
And while there are sites that offer decent brainstorming tools, ClickUp’s Mind Maps feature is the ultimate tool you can use for brainstorming and ideation.
Get ClickUp for free today and watch your most innovative ideas come to life!
Greg is a Content Strategist at ClickUp, where he crafts copy and content for the most productive people in the world. When he’s not living in ClickUp Docs, he’s spending quarantine somewhere in San Diego, drinking wine, reading his Kindle, watching documentaries, or eating shit on his surfboard.