10 Effective Ideation Techniques for Your Team (With Templates!)
Remember that episode of SpongeBob where he has to write 500 words on what not to do at a stoplight and ends up spending hours doing anything else because he can’t think of what to write?
TBH, the ideation techniques and the overall process can feel like that sometimes, especially when the pressure to keep producing fresh ideas is so real. To stay on top of industry trends—and ahead of the competition—companies aim to maintain a never-ending supply of new, innovative ideas. But it’s not as easy as it sounds…😅
Coming up with the next big thing is hard work, and it takes more than a three-hour block on your calendar and an open conference room to make it happen. Strategy and careful planning are behind every successful brainstorming session.
Because developing unique and marketable ideas requires a well-facilitated approach, properly designed exercises, and the right resources.
To your surprise (and delight), you don’t have to identify as a creative person to come up with creative ideas. There is more to idea development than meets the eye. Very little of it comes down to personal instinct or gut feelings.
Successful ideation sessions are effective and enjoyable, and each session shares some distinct similarities. Follow along as we dive into everything you need to know to facilitate your own ideation sessions—in person, or from home—including what ideation is, its top 10 techniques, and our favorite helpful templates. 🤓
- What is ideation and why is it so important?
- 10 of our favorite creative ideation techniques
- How to hold successful ideation meetings in person and from home
What is ideation and why is it so important?
Ideation is the process of forming ideas or concepts—it is the source of new ideas. There are a ton of advantages, ranging from quicker, more flexible problem-solving to fostering team togetherness. Plus, it keeps you from staying stagnant.
Making ideation your mission increases productivity, stimulates and encourages the team, and helps you better understand where your company should go with its SMART goals. 💜
Ideation is key to company success and higher overall ideation rates are linked to increased revenue! It comes down to work culture: create a continuous improvement culture to ultimately come up with better solutions, and make it a top priority to manage them.
One of the biggest obstacles to coming up with new ideas is simply creating a safe space to share them. Fear of negative feedback and unequal leadership hierarchies among other reasons lead members to feel uncomfortable or hesitant in these sessions. And pressure on the team from higher-ups to solve challenges will not magically make the right ideas come to light.
What’s more, as a leader, you want to ensure that the team feels comfortable enough to share ideas at all times—not just when the calendar says so. The solution is to uphold a positive professional environment around sharing new ideas, encouraging feedback, listening, and support.
You’re not alone in pursuit of this goal. That’s why we have 10 proven ideation techniques to get your creative juices flowing on the road to ideation success!
10 of our favorite creative ideation techniques
Consider this scenario: you’re seated in a little chilly boardroom, taking notes, gazing at a whiteboard, and listening to concepts thrown around by your peers. Time passes, a few ideas are chosen to follow up on next week, and the meeting is closed. But what if there was a more practical approach to generate fresh, actionable ideas?
When the brainstorming approach was first launched in 1953, it was founded on four fundamental principles:
- Generate a considerable number of ideas
- Avoid criticism
- Encourage wild ideas
- Expand on each other’s concepts
But in recent decades, technological advancements prompted innovation and creativity specialists to advocate for a more systematic approach to idea generation, refinement, and execution—all while retaining these fundamental principles.
As a result, we now have organized ideation, AKA: specialized activities, methods, and models to develop ideas and accelerate corporate growth. And it’s becoming increasingly popular.
From building a marketing approach to revamping a product, this systematic approach to ideation helps teams across industries tackle almost any problem. Here are a few team-based brainstorming techniques that make your ideation sessions more inclusive, engaging, and effective:
1. Mind Mapping
A mind map is a diagram tool to help you record and link together ideas to recall and generate new concepts faster. Think of it almost as a web to help you track your train of thought and help you remember how one idea evolved or connected to another.
You can draw your mind map by hand on a whiteboard, or use a template to make the process a little easier. What’s more, there are a ton of tools to help you make the most of your mind map by connecting it to your workflow in a project management software like ClickUp!
ClickUp Mind Maps are highly visual tools for creating logical paths between tasks that can be arranged, edited, and deleted in a matter of a few clicks. You can make one from scratch in Blank Mode or lean on ClickUp’s Simple Mind Map Template as a resource to save time while creating your diagram, then turn nodes into tasks to start acting on your ideas, instantly.
This is arguably the greatest advantage of creating your Mind Map in a designated project management software—eliminating the grey area between having a great idea and turning it into an actionable plan.
Plus, they’re extremely versatile. Mind map use cases range from education management to SEO testing—even human resources and home renovation planning. Mind maps give you the freedom to customize how your plans flow from one phase to the next and are easily customizable, so there’s no pressure that anything is set in stone as you go.
2. Method 6-3-5
First things first: you need a team of six for this method.
This is a fully collaborative effort and you may end up with a pretty significant number of ideas with this method if you’re looking for a fresh take on an issue or a list of possible solutions. Here’s the breakdown:
👉 Each participant comes up with three recommendations to share with the group
👉 The team works to expand on each recommendation over the course of five iterations
So it’s six people, three ideas each, five iterations: 6-3-5.
The goal is to generate as many concepts as possible for a single issue—not necessarily for each idea to be extremely detailed or well thought out. This method is more about quantity than quality, but the idea is that you’ll have so many ideas, you’ll be bound to find at least one good one.
3. Round Robin
This approach may sound like something you’ve done before, but with a little twist. This method starts by proposing the problem in the form of a question starting with “how might we ____ ?” This is also known as the HMW inquiry.
Each team member will draw (or write) a solution to the HMW inquiry, then pass their idea to the left. The person to the left will essentially iterate that new idea and present its problems and solutions going forward.
Once each HMW inquiry is passed to the left, that person will then jot down one or more reasons why that solution might fail. Then they will present the concept and its challenges, and as a group, come up with ways to keep the solution from failing.
The idea is to improve team synergy by using each other’s ideas in a fast-paced environment. It’s also a great method to get feedback on something you’re already working on and a fresh perspective in case there are any gaps in logic or resources.
One possible obstacle here though is that round-robin is better executed in person. A way to remedy this solution though is with a powerful collaboration tool or a digital whiteboard.
Rather than passing a piece of paper between the group, share the ideas on an infinite canvas with live cursors and real-time editing to work alongside each other without overlap. Plus, virtual whiteboards have plenty of media upload, formatting, free-hand drawing, and shape features to add clarity and context to your ideas.
And did we mention that ClickUp Whiteboards connect directly to your workflow and give you the power to turn any shape on your board into a task? Just some food for thought for you. 🧠
Storyboarding is a brainstorming process to create a visual narrative around an issue. How would you tell the story about the problem you’re having?
Bringing the tale to life allows participants to dig deeper into the issue and come up with viable solutions. Not to mention, we all digest information differently.
Our brains are built to comprehend multiple images at once and by sharing your project’s story, the team can better understand and organize the sequence of events. This alone helps reveal the root of the problem and possible solutions.
5. Negative Brainstorming
Also known as reverse brainstorming, this method is the combination of brainstorming and taking the negative approach. The goal of negative brainstorming is to discover ways of aggravating a problem in order to come up with new ways to solve it.
The idea is that by flipping your focus to the opposite side of the spectrum, you can get more creative with how you arrive at a solution. Might sound a little confusing—but also kind of cool! 😎
When it’s tough to come up with straightforward answers to an issue, negative brainstorming should be your go-to. It’s usually an entertaining procedure that might reveal flaws in a method or product. If your team has hit the proverbial wall, change your perspective. What would make this problem even worse?
This forces you to give your brain a break, and you may be surprised with how far that momentary refresh will get you! It’s almost like answering that age-old question: what would you do if money was not an option?
Still not sure what this looks like? No sweat, ClickUp Whiteboards comes with a reverse brainstorming template!
6. Crazy 8’s
One of the ideation techniques we love is Crazy 8’s. First, divide a blank piece of paper into eight sections. Set an 8-minute stopwatch.
This activity aims for each person to draw one concept in each square—or one idea every minute—until the canvas is filled. When each minute passes, you must move on to the next prompt regardless of how far you’ve progressed in your square. You only have a minute per square, so if you don’t move on to the next one when it’s time, you’ll miss the flow of ideas and fall behind.
This strategy works best during the ideation stage when you already have a few basic ideas to expand on to help new, stronger takes emerge faster. The goal is to come up with a variety of new ideas in a short amount of time, so if you want to return to one after the eight minutes have passed, you will still get the chance!
Prototyping is, in fact, an ideation approach! Before proceeding to the next phase of your project process, prototypes help flesh out every final detail, issue, and concept.
Prototypes keep things visible, which is a fantastic benefit of using them in your brainstorming process. When your team can see your concept, it’s much easier to support it and offer constructive feedback.
Your prototype can be as straightforward or as detailed as you like. However, having at least a rough idea of what you’ll be working with can act as a springboard, and ultimately will help you nail-down specifications, design, and functionality.
You could make a fast, low-fidelity prototype with ink and paper if you’re just getting started, or use a digital whiteboard to draw, organize, and share your prototype with the team.
We use this term a lot, but what does it really mean?
Brainstorming is one of the ideation techniques that combine unofficial problem-solving with lateral thinking. Basically, the goal is to provide a safe space with no rules for team members to come up with crazy ideas. Some of these ideas are transformed into unique and innovative solutions, while others catalyze new ideas.
To use the brainstorming technique, start by outlining the problem you’re trying to address and determining the goals of a potential solution. Then, before bringing the team together, come up with solutions on your own.
Participants should not be required, reprimanded, or rewarded for their contributions. This keeps the brainstorming space supportive and encourages the flow of every idea (without stifling others).
Visual elements elicit more ideas and offer a wider perspective. The idea here is to develop engaging drawings that you can revisit and expand on by hanging them in your conference room or storing them on a collaborative digital whiteboard.
The sketches should be simple with just enough information to communicate your message and must be accessible for other team members to contribute to it if they wish! That’s the collaborative part. This also helps people avoid becoming emotionally connected to their small art pieces.
It reminds everyone that coming up with new ideas is truly a group effort. And you can think more freely and imaginatively about your concepts by sketching them out. Then you focus on getting the thought out of your head rather than worrying about the quality of the drawing.
It may be a stick figure or a few labeled shapes, but sketches will ultimately let you capture ideas and share them with others, faster.
Brainwriting is a slightly different take on brainstorming. Instead of yelling out concepts, the team jots them down. Each member’s ideas are then forwarded to another person, who reads them and adds their own thoughts or ideas (if they have one).
This technique aims to alleviate any stress and anxiety associated with sharing ideas among the group. TBH, not everyone feels comfortable enough to share new ideas right off the bat, others struggle with public speaking challenges.
Also, many simply arrive at their best ideas when they are placed under less stress. Another great advantage to brainwriting? It can be done asynchronously! That, my friend, is truly the future of work.
Check out ClickUp’s Brainwriting Template to apply to your Whiteboard!
How to hold successful ideation meetings in person and from home
Point blank: to have a successful ideation session, stay focused on your objective, avoid judgments, and establish ground rules for whatever strategy you choose. Even with an endless supply of ideation techniques, you risk losing them without a system in place to keep track of them.
And no pressure to settle on just one—try them all! Every team is different, it may take a few tries to find your sweet spot but trust the process and the ideas will come. Plus, with an idea management software like ClickUp with templates, features, and automations built to tackle these very techniques, you won’t waste any time in applying them to your next ideation session.
Draw Mind Maps from scratch, drag connections between nodes, and instantly turn them into tasks in ClickUp!
Focused ideation techniques help you improve the efficiency of your creative process and save your team expenses and time.
ClickUp’s mind mapping software transforms your ideas into a clear and customizable visual outline, while its collaborative digital Whiteboards give you the creative power to create virtually anything—and act on it immediately.
ClickUp is your all-in-one work management solution for all things ideation and brainstorming. Access unlimited tasks, ClickUp Mind Maps, Whiteboards, 100MB of storage, and much more for free, forever. Then streamline your remote and in-person team processes even further with over 1,000 integrations available across plans. So what are you waiting for?