15 Brainstorming Exercises for Creative Problem-Solving

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 3, 2021 | Published November 5, 2020

Updated March 3, 2021

Published November 5, 2020

Brainstorming is a highly effective method of uncovering innovative solutions to challenges that you might encounter in the workplace. Through brainstorming, you can test your own assumptions and even discover better ways to perform tasks or solve problems. In this article, we review 15 brainstorming exercises to help you identify the ones that will work best with your team.

Related: 4 Leadership Activities to Empower Your Team

What are brainstorming exercises?

Brainstorming exercises are activities intended to help people come up with new ideas. Ultimately, the goal is that these ideas can be crafted into creative solutions to problems. Brainstorming exercises are intended to help people move away from their normal way of thinking and consider new possibilities.

Related: How to Run an Effective Brainstorming Session

Fifteen brainstorming exercises

If you're looking for a brainstorming exercise to try yourself or with your team, here are 20 you may want to consider:

1. Reverse brainstorming

Typically when people brainstorm new ideas, they're doing so to find solutions to problems. With this brainstorming exercise, the people participating actually look for ways to cause problems. Look at the problem and begin by asking what steps you could take to cause it. Once you have compiled a list of ways to cause problems, you can then start identifying ways to solve them.

2. Mind mapping

With this exercise, you are enhancing the process of brainstorming with a visual tool, a mind map. To perform this brainstorming exercise, you write down the challenge or goal you're trying to address. You then ask the participants in the room to identify related issues, adding them to the map so that you can better visualize the relationships between the ideas.

3. Driver's analysis

When you perform a driver's analysis, you ask yourself what is driving the problem you're looking to address. In other words, if you're experiencing lower productivity, you would ask yourself what is driving that. If you're noticing that customer loyalty has decreased, you ask the participants to brainstorm ideas for what's driving that decrease.

4. Gap filling

With this brainstorming exercise, you start with a statement about where you currently are and then write one down that notes where you would like to be. You then must fill the gap, identifying solutions to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Work with the participants to find a variety of answers that could fill the gap and then organize them to create a plan for how you're going to achieve your goal.

5. Five whys

This is a simple brainstorming exercise that you perform by asking the questions "why" five or more times until you reach the ultimate cause of a problem. For example, you can start this exercise to ask why the problem is happening and then continue that process until you reach the ultimate cause, which you can then seek to resolve.

6. SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is an effective solution for identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. By fully understanding your real strengths and primary weaknesses, you can identify new ways to overcome those weaknesses and take advantage of your key opportunities.

7. Starbursting

This is another visual approach to brainstorming, where you create a star with six points and write the opportunity or challenge at the center. On each of the six points, you write who, what, where, when, why and how. You can then generate questions using these keywords. For example, you could ask who your best clients are and what problem they're trying to resolve.

8. Collaborative brainwriting

With this exercise, you write down the primary concern or question you're addressing on a large paper and post it on the wall for your team. You can then give your team a week to write their ideas on paper. At the end of the week, create a list of all the possible solutions and identify the best solution.

Related: How to Demonstrate Collaboration in the Workplace

9. Brain-netting

This is similar to the collaborative brainwriting exercise above, except that it happens over the internet. Using this brainstorming exercise, you have a system online that allows people on your team to submit their ideas for resolving a problem privately. Once everyone has finished brainstorming ideas, the entire team can meet to discuss the ideas that the group generated. This approach works well with remote teams, although the discussion at the end is important for it to be successful.

10. Individual brainstorming

Though brainstorming with members of a team is typically the most effective method for generating solutions to problems, individual brainstorming is shown to be effective as well, as you have the freedom to be your most creative. While you won't have the wider experience of a group to draw upon, you also can feel comfortable writing down any ideas that come to mind.

11. Slip writing

This slip writing process involves having people write their ideas down on index cards. Those ideas are then submitted anonymously and shared with the entire group, who can then add new ideas or modify the ones submitted. The cards could also be presented directly to the management team, who can review them and identify the best options.

12. Role storming

Ask people who are participating in the brainstorming session with you to put themselves in the position of the person whose experience relates to your goal. For example, look at a situation from the perspective of your customers. Ask yourself why you might be dissatisfied with a situation if you were in their position. Then ask yourself what scenario would you, if you were a customer, feel better about the outcome or the experience. This can help you come up with creative solutions to everyday problems you're experiencing.

13. Reverse thinking

This is similar to role storming, except in this situation you ask yourself what someone else would do if they were in your situation. You then ask yourself what the opposite approach would be. Would taking the opposite approach work? This can help you explore whether the move common approach would really work or whether there are other, possibly better, options.

14. Step ladder brainstorming

Gather a team of people together to discuss a challenge that you're facing. Once you share the challenge with the group, send all but two people from the room to brainstorm solutions independently. Give the two members of the team who are remaining time to brainstorm possible solutions to the challenge.

Next, bring one person from the original group back into the room to share their ideas before they listen to the ideas of the first two. They can then spend a few minutes discussing the accumulation of ideas and their viability before you bring in another person from the original group. Repeat this process until everyone is back in the room and has that the opportunity to share their ideas.

15. Round robin brainstorming

This is a great brainstorm exercise to encourage everyone on your team to speak up and share their ideas. With this exercise, you go around the group and share ideas one at a time. Everyone is required to share an idea and the others are required to wait until all ideas have been shared before they can suggest an idea of their own or critique or add to the ideas of others.

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