30 Effective Brainstorming Techniques for Teams To Try
Updated February 3, 2023
Brainstorming is an effective process for thinking of potential solutions and considering new ideas. There are different techniques you may use that involve activities like drawing, writing or talking with others to develop your ideas. Learning more about these different techniques may ensure you choose the right method for your situation,
In this article, we discuss different types of brainstorming and list brainstorming techniques to use.
Silent brainstorming techniques
Silent brainstorming methods involve groups and individuals who come up with ideas in writing or through another quiet medium. Examples of this type of technique include:
Freewriting gets teams and individuals to record their thoughts, questions and ideas related to anything they wish. It's a common technique for writers and creatives, but business professionals may also benefit from it. It's generally helpful for thinking of new ideas, especially when you may feel like it's challenging to generate ideas.
2. Starbursting method
The starbursting method uses a six-pointed star to organize information. To use this tool, groups or individuals write down a topic, issue or opportunity in the center of the star. Then, they label each of the six points with the words "who," "what," "where," "when," "why" and "how." This investigative process is effective for generating questions based on the labels on each point.
3. Trigger statements
This method involves asking open-ended questions to encourage creative thinking. With this approach, a team leader asks something or makes a statement that prompts teammates to create new ideas. For instance, the team leader may present a leading statement, such as “Problems occur when…,” to get groups thinking about solutions. Teams and individuals can write down their ideas quietly, then come together to discuss the topic and the concepts it generated.
4. Crawford slip writing
The Crawford slip-writing technique uses slips of paper or note cards as the medium for teams to collaborate and allows participants to share honest feedback. A team lead presents a problem, question or concept, and each teammate writes their ideas on their piece of paper. After everyone finishes recording their thoughts, the team leader collects the note cards to review individually.
5. Collaborative brainwriting
Brainwriting in groups involves giving each member of a team their own piece of paper or note card. They write down their ideas and pass their paper to the teammate next to them. The new participant adds to the ideas of their neighbor. This process continues until everyone in the group has contributed to each other's ideas.
6. Idea napkin
The idea napkin technique encourages participants to create tangible solutions for topics. Each person fills out a napkin with their idea and creates an elevator pitch about it. They present their ideas to each other, then the group decides which ideas are worthwhile to pursue.
7. Lightning decision jam
Lightning decision jam may be a good option for brainstorming effectively within the span of an hour. The team writes down all positive aspects of a topic, then does the same for all negative aspects. They reconsider potential problems as questions to resolve, then determine which solutions may be most effective but the least effort to pursue.
SCAMPER challenges participants to consider the brainstorming topics from alternative perspectives. Provide each participant with a template with the acronym spelled out for them to complete. SCAMPER means:
Put to another use
Analytical brainstorming techniques
Analytical brainstorming techniques use evaluation, data and analysis for brainstorming in teams or individually. Examples of these techniques include:
9. Drivers analysis
This method of brainstorming allows groups to identify the drivers, or causes, behind a problem or challenge. A drivers analysis works similarly to a simple cause-and-effect analysis, where business teams address an issue and ask probing questions to determine the causes of the problem. For example, a marketing team might use a drivers analysis to identify the factors that motivate competition, dampen customer loyalty or cause a reduction in strategy effectiveness.
10. Fill in the gaps
The fill-in-the-gaps approach to brainstorming consists of identifying both the starting point and the end result of a desired process or application. For instance, a business identifies its starting point as the product development stage. The desired objective is to generate profit. The business “fills in the gaps” by outlining the necessary steps to take to go from the starting point, which is product development, to the end result, which is earning profits.
11. How now wow
How now wow categorizes ideas based on their originality and the ability to implement them. "How" ideas may be implementable, but they're not original, and "now" ideas are unoriginal, but implementation is possible. "Wow" ideas are both original and offer the possibility of implementation.
12. Associative brainstorming
Associative brainstorming techniques use word connections to form relationships between ideas. This method provides a way to form affiliations between descriptors and objects, such as “strategy” and “digital.” The more associations there are, the more likely the team is to develop a variety of ideas.
13. Mind mapping
The mind-mapping technique uses visual tools to form a picture of the relationship between a central topic and its supporting ideas. Mind maps can be bubble charts, diagrams or graphic organizers to help teams build strategic outlines. For example, a marketing team can use a mind map to brainstorm the digital channels they want to use to promote their website content.
Similar to mind mapping, creating flowcharts helps to organize ideas into a set order. This may help the team determine how to establish new process orders. For example, a software company could use a flowchart to ideate product design when the development team initiates a new project.
15. SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis identifies the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of an organization. Companies use SWOT analyses to determine whether a project is worth initiating. When used during brainstorming sessions, SWOT analysis can be an effective tool for collaborating across entire business departments.
Hypothetical brainstorming techniques
Hypothetical brainstorming asks "what if" questions, poses role play scenarios and focuses on creative problem-solving, sometimes in nontraditional ways. Some types of this technique are:
16. "What if" situation
With this method of brainstorming, a facilitator presents a central topic and poses a hypothetical scenario. The team presents potential solutions for resolving the issue. This may be helpful for preventing problems or fixing future issues.
17. Role play
Individuals and teams can use the role play technique to discover how someone else might approach a challenge or solve a problem. Teams can adapt different roles and responsibilities to assist with creative problem-solving. It may present new, surprising viewpoints that can help when solving problems.
18. Six hats
Six hats involves six participants each owning a particular aspect of brainstorming process. They may wear hats or nametags with a specific angle or concern to focus on during brainstorming. This encourages the team to explore each idea thoroughly during brainstorming.
19. Reverse the process
Reverse brainstorming involves looking at the end result or objective and finding ways to make the outcome happen. For instance, a manufacturing company's project management team can use reverse brainstorming to come up with ideas that can cause problems with operations. They define problems and identify what causes the problems so they can find strategies to solve them.
20. Time travel
This method encourages teams and individuals to imagine they are living in a different time period. Participants create solutions based on the ideas of what they would do during that imagined time period. This can be an especially creative approach, as it motivates teams to work with various limitations associated with the eras they imagine.
21. The five whys method
The method of asking why is the central focus of this technique. Teams apply the “five whys” by first identifying a problem and then asking why it's occurring. After gathering several answers to that first why question, they continue the process of asking why at least four more times until they identify the main cause of the issue.
22. Role storming
Role storming is a more specific version of role play brainstorming. This process assigns each participant a role related to an aspect of the problem you're attempting to resolve and has them act out a scene. This scene challenges participants to think about how others may react in the situation and why they may feel or act a certain way.
23. Eidetic image method
The eidetic image method may be a good option for visual learners, and it essentially involves mediation. Participants close their eyes, then the facilitator provides a prompt to consider. The group opens their eyes, discusses what they imagined and closes their eyes to think about more potential new features. The process continues as they discover ways to improve an existing product or process.
Collaborative brainstorming techniques
Collaborative brainstorming involves teams who either discuss ideas or brainstorm silently in groups for later conversations about the topic. Examples of these techniques include:
24. Medici Effect
The Medici Effect focuses on comparing parallel ideas. It involves combining diverse strategies, concepts, disciplines and industries to make connections between ideas that initially appear unrelated. When business teams apply the Medici Effect, they combine elements from different sources to develop new and innovative ideas for solving problems, making decisions and planning projects.
Brain-netting is an online method that requires a collaborative platform that allows individuals to share ideas privately and to cooperate publicly as teams. This technique is particular for modern, virtual workspaces. It's also possible to combine this technique with other types of brainstorming, such as reverse brainstorming or trigger statements.
26. Rapid ideation
Rapid ideation works effectively for business groups with limited time for brainstorming sessions. With this technique, a team leader provides context for team members, providing information such as questions on the topic, deadlines, budgets, resources and other factors affecting project initiation. Then, the team leader sets a time limit for everyone to write down as many ideas as possible.
27. Group ideation
In group ideation sessions, teammates can share ideas and build on innovative concepts they come up with during brainstorming meetings. Group ideation is beneficial because it encourages open communication. This feedback may help throughout the development stages, production phases and distribution of new products and services.
28. Round robin
In a round robin, the team sits in a circle, with one person starting with the topic. Then, the team goes around the circle one by one so each member can offer their input while the team leader records everyone's ideas for later discussion. This sharing technique is extremely effective for business groups to add to one another's ideas and responses.
The stepladder technique encourages individual reflection before team contribution. Team members gather to hear about a topic from the team leader, then everyone leaves the room except for two team members. These members discuss the topic, then another member joins them to share their ideas. The process repeats until everyone is back in the room.
The Charrette technique begins with a large team choosing multiple topics to consider, then separating into smaller groups, each with a single topic to brainstorm. As each group completes their ideation process, the teams come back together to share their ideas and connect them all together. It's an effective technique for large groups to use to combine ideas from a number of groups and concepts.
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