7 tips for better brainstorming

by Matt Currie / 08 September 2014 / 2 Comments

In our experience, most people in business are familiar with brainstorming as an idea generation technique. So much so that when we inject brainstorming into our projects it’s often met with some level of eye rolling – “Simple old brainstorming! Is that all you’ve got?”

Despite this familiarity, and maybe because of the scepticism, we find that many brainstorming sessions fail to deliver maximum value if left to their own devices.

To combat this, at Divergent we’ve got a set of brainstorming rules we adhere to very closely.

1. Always have a well defined question or challenge as your brainstorming topic eg. how might we rid the area of mice? which new customers could we target?

2. Brainstorm with others – make sure everyone contributes ideas (no-one’s allowed to just be a scribe). We use a “write it, say it, stick it” approach to ensure everyone gets a chance to react to each other’s ideas.

3. Make it a visual and output–based process – use a whiteboard or a wall and post-it notes, sketch rather than just write (whenever appropriate).

4. Never judge, question or evaluate anyone else’s idea. Instead try building on the ideas of others through a free-form word–association style of thinking.

5. Never justify or explain any of your own ideas. Just get the idea out there as soon as you have it. It doesn’t need to be fully formed, defensible or even logical.

6. Always brainstorm standing up – it just feels like a more active and engaged posture.

7. Play a little funky background music – it’s a great way to distract and quieten that voice in your head that wants to judge and justify, and to signal that you’re working in a specific creative mode.

By following these rules we’ve found our brainstorming sessions produce a quantity of divergent ideas, inject a healthy dose of creative energy into the project and are just plain fun. The eye rolling is replaced by excitement and enthusiasm for ideas and their potential.

What challenges have you encountered in your brainstorming efforts? What are your tips for better brainstorming?

About the author:

Matt is the Director and Principal at Divergent. Matt is a divergent thinker who loves ideating but knows when to converge too; he has experience with a range of tools and techniques to guide the innovation process to successful business outcomes.

2 Comments

  1. Great post, I like the no single scribe approach and the “write it, say it, stick it” rule – I’ve often experienced brainstorms where it moves into people articulating their ideas verbally around a table. As soon as it moves off the whiteboard it’s harder to document and harder to explain for anyone else who needs to know.

    • Matt Currie says:

      Glad you liked the post David. Capturing ideas can sometimes be seen as a barrier to a free flow of ideas, but as you say an idea not documented is often an idea lost.

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