The purpose of brainstorming is to trigger as many ideas as possible. Quantity is better than quality in this case. There is no place for criticism, judgement, or evaluation of ideas during a brainstorming session – it’s simply the place where thoughts run free.
As a team leader, encouraging your team to think outside the box will boost their confidence and unlock your team’s creativity. When dealing with challenging problems, brainstorming can help your team develop a few ideas that can lead to real solutions.
This is where brainstorming techniques come to the scene. These techniques provide structure for brainstorming sessions, inspire creativity in participants, and ensure that good ideas become reality.
8 Effective Brainstorming Techniques
Brainstorming is not just sitting in a room with a whiteboard or paper and writing down ideas. It is about including every team member in the session, letting them know that their opinion matters.
There is no true or correct way of doing a brainstorming session. Below, you can find different brainstorming techniques, and depending on your team’s needs, you can either use one or a mix of them.
In the beginning of this technique, the team leader shares a topic with the team and asks them to write three different ideas that come to their mind on three different cards.
After the team members write their first three ideas, they give the cards to the person who sits on the right or left side of them until completing a full round. Other team members read the cards and might add some points.
When the team completes the round, the team leader can collect the cards and read them to decide on what is the next step or start a group discussion.
Applying this silent brainstorming technique is important, mainly because you include and do not miss the ideas of your introverted teammates. Every opinion is heard. Also, the method prevents anchoring effects, so people will not stick to their pre-existed ideas and be more open to new ones.
2. How Now Wow.
The technique looks for ideas that are original and easy to implement. The session starts with collecting ideas and continues with putting them into How, Now, and Wow categories.
How ideas: They are original but not easy to implement right now, given the team’s constraints. Nevertheless, they set a good starting point for long-term goals.
Now ideas: They are not original, but they are easy to implement. These ideas are considered low-hanging fruit.
Wow ideas: They are original and easy to implement.
A How Now Wow brainstorming session aims to bring WOW ideas out as much as possible.
3. Rapid Ideation
This technique is suitable for teams that do not like long meetings or lose their concentration quickly. The method is more applicable if you have an extroverted team or a short deadline.
In Rapid Ideation, the team leader sets a timer, and team members add ideas as many as possible during this time. How to apply this technique depends on the team leader. The team leader can ask the brainstormers to write down their ideas on paper and collect them, or they can shout out their thoughts and write them down on the board.
Yes, you read it correctly; you wish things. You, alone or with your team, wish for an idea, either to fix a problem or to come up with new ideas for new projects. For example, you are an advertising company, and you wish that “our company starts to work with advertising agencies in North America.” From that starting point, you and your team think about how the idea can be accomplished, what things need to be done to reach the goal, or even why it could be impossible to achieve the dream.
Wishing and thinking about the scenarios will help you and your team to see how realistic your dreams are. This method lets your team be creative and let their imagination run free.
5. Five Why’s?
In this technique, you start with a problem. You share with your team a problem and ask your team, “why do we have this problem?”. After some thoughts and solutions are collected, you ask another “why” question. This process continues until you get five “why’s”. With this technique, you investigate and go into the core of the problem. It will allow you to analyse your project’s process and strong points. While applying this technique, you can use a fishbone diagram or flowchart to help you organise the ideas.
6. Reverse Brainstorming
As the technique’s name suggests, you are applying the opposite of the traditional brainstorming technique. With traditional brainstorming, you bring ideas together to solve a problem; however, with reverse brainstorming, you are looking for ideas on how things can worsen and how you cannot solve a problem. The technique is perfect when you have a short time, feel stuck, and no new ideas come in. The method also works well when the project gets very complicated and exhausting, making the team lose their creativity.
Thinking about a problem instead of solutions will allow you and your team to think out of the box. Besides, seeing the issues in an early stage would help you to address them.
This technique leverages innovative and imaginative ways of thinking. Every letter in SCAMPER stands for the steps of the technique.
Substitute: the step of considering replacing a part, a material, or an element of your products with a new one. The reasons could be many, such as financial, environmental, etc.
Combine: the idea of merging two products of yours into one. For example, you produce traditional teapots and electric kettles; now, you merge them and get an electric teapot.
Adapt: consideration of new adjustments to existing products. For example: using ceramic layers in the kettles instead of any metal.
Modify: this is about changing. For instance, you produce an electric teapot; however, you can only fill 1 litre of water, and you modify it to support 1.5 litres.
Put for other uses: “what else can we use an electric teapot for?” It is a process of thinking creatively and imaginatively.
Eliminate: here, you and your team think about the parts that are not necessary. They could be part of a product or service. What or how can you clear them out?
Reverse: the rearranging or reengineering and thinking about what can be changed to make one of the processes (marketing, production, sales, etc.) flawless and efficient.
8. Brain Netting
A suitable technique for remote and distributed teams. Brain netting is all about working together online by using online tools such as Miro, Slack, Google Docs or Skype. Brain netting sessions can range from very simple voice calls with your team, to full video conferencing sessions with screen sharing. You can also record the sessions so that team members who could not attend can watch it online at their own pace.
Online Brainstorming Tools
Miro. A real-time collaboration tool. The platform offers various templates (e.g., Mind Maps, Flowcharts, Kanban boards, etc.) to start a session, so you do not have to start from scratch. You can add almost any content to your Miro board (images, video, text, diagrams). With its video and chat tool, you can save time and easily co-create during your brainstorming sessions. Let people join the session anonymously and vote for the best ideas.
inVision Freehand. A free online whiteboard for team collaboration. You can start brainstorming using sticky notes or any of the available templates. Your teammates can join you in real-time or collaborate asynchronously later on. inVision Freehand is suitable for brainstorming sessions and is also a tool for product and graphic design, where team members collaborate and give feedback before pushing their products live.
MindMeister. It offers team collaboration and a historical view. You can look at the changes made by other members over time. It offers brainstorming templates ready to use. It is web-based, that’s why you don’t need to download it to your computer.
Coggle. Another web-based platform. With Coogle, you create flowcharts and mind maps. Its history view makes it possible to see changes on the charts and maps over time.
Ideament. A brainstorming tool you can use on your smartphone or tablet. You can create mind maps, flow charts, take notes, make lists, almost anything. You can share your ideas and templates via email or cloud applications.
There’s a suitable brainstorming technique for each team. You can start by trying different methods while keeping your team’s traits in mind. Brainstorming tools can help you bring ideas together and revise them whenever you want.