Brainstorming Methods and Explanation – The 10 Best Techniques for More Ideas

Brainstorm using these methods will help in every situation. We show which techniques work best.

There are many different ways to get ideas or to work them out. It is helpful to use appropriate methods to work out these goals more efficiently. Here are the best techniques and methods for getting more ideas.

There are great ideas behind every successful company. But how do you actually come up with these ideas, and how can you help something? Some ideas come because someone is “kissed by the muse,” but what does the rest of the population do? – Through the targeted use of various brainstorming techniques, the brainstorming juices can flow at full speed. Here we show you the most successful methods and explain efficient brainstorming tips and tricks.

Another helpful article with more brainstorming techniques: 7 Methods For A More Efficient Brainstorming Including Tips

What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a creative problem-solving technique that originated in the 1930s. It was developed by Alex Osborn, a businessman, and author. He wrote a book called How to Think Up Ideas, describing a method for generating new ideas. The basic idea of brainstorming is that it is a way to quickly generate a large number of ideas and then later evaluate them to see which ones are most promising.

The original brainstorming technique involved a group of people getting together in a room and generating ideas. The goal was to gather as many ideas as possible without judging or evaluating them. Participants were encouraged to think outside the box and develop unconventional or impractical ideas.

The brainstorming process has evolved over the years, and today there are several methods for conducting a brainstorming session. These methods include mind maps, sticky notes, and software programs like Brainstormer or IdeaStorm.

How to brainstorm ideas effectively.

There are several methods for brainstorming, but not all are equally good. Some methods are more effective than others, and choosing a method that works best for you and your team is important. When choosing a brainstorming method, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make it truly effective:

  1. The method is appropriate
    The best brainstorming methods aren’t always the ones that encourage participants to think creatively and come up with ideas that go outside the box. Some methods are better at evaluating, refining, or diving deeper.
  2. The method should be collaborative
    Brainstorming is most effective when done as a team. This allows different people to contribute their perspectives and ideas. This works best with very heterogeneous groups from various perspectives and expertise.
  3. The method should be structured
    A well-structured brainstorming session helps ensure that all ideas are given equal consideration and that the best ideas are selected.
  4. Make sure the method is fun
    Brainstorming should be fun and creative, so choose a method everyone enjoys.

10 Tips for great brainstorming sessions

Unsurprisingly, brainstorming, a technique for generating new ideas, doesn’t always work. The truth is that managing many different aspects simultaneously is difficult, and it’s no different when it comes to thinking creatively. For brainstorming to be successful, participants need to feel free to share their ideas without criticism or judgment. Furthermore, everyone in the group needs to be attentive and give each idea its due consideration. Finally, there needs to be enough space for abstract ideas to flourish.

1. Set the goals of the sessions upfront

Before you begin brainstorming, setting clear goals for the session is important. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that all ideas are considered about the task. Without specific goals, participants are likely to get sidetracked and generate ideas that don’t contribute to the project.

2. Getting into the right state of mind

Some exercises might help to get participants into the right state of mind for brainstorming. For example, having everyone write a list of ten ideas for a new product or service can help flow the creative juices. Alternatively, you could ask participants to come up with ideas to solve a problem. In either case, getting people to relax and focus on the task can help them generate more ideas.

Little tip: Play also games with the participants. That helps to bring them into the right state of mind.

3. Be good at moderating – give everyone a voice

For brainstorming to be successful, participants need to feel free to share their ideas without criticism or judgment. Furthermore, everyone in the group needs to be attentive and give each idea its due consideration. Good moderation is one key factor in ensuring everyone has a voice. This includes giving everyone a chance to speak and sharing the speaking time evenly. It’s also important to ensure no one participant dominates the discussion. By keeping these things in mind, you can help ensure that all voices are heard and that the brainstorming process is productive.

4. Appreciate all ideas and contributions

Make sure everyone’s contributions are valuable. Even if an idea doesn’t seem like it could be helpful at first, it might spark another idea.

5. Encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking during brainstorming

When it comes to brainstorming, it’s important to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Sometimes the most valuable ideas are the ones that seem silly or non-related at first. So don’t put them down – appreciate them instead! They may be the spark you need to develop your next big idea.

6. Give everyone enough space and freedom

Brainstorming can be a lot of fun, but it’s also important to allow some freedom and space to think creatively. Some of the best ideas can come from thinking outside the box, so don’t be afraid to let your team members explore new possibilities. And don’t forget to encourage them – after all, a positive attitude can go a long way towards sparking creativity.

7. Write down abstract ideas to help generate new connections

When it comes to brainstorming, using abstract ideas can help to generate new connections and steer the group out of normal thinking patterns. And don’t forget to encourage your team members – a positive attitude can go a long way towards sparking creativity.

8. Note down everything and every idea

When engaged in a brainstorming session, it is important to record all ideas, inputs, discussion points, and arguments. This allows everyone involved in the session to understand what was discussed clearly and can help avoid confusion or misunderstandings. Additionally, recording brainstorming sessions can help track progress and ensure all ideas are considered.

9. Choose the right environment

The right setting can encourage creativity and innovation. The environment should be comfortable and conducive to idea generation, with plenty of space for people to move around and collaborate. It’s also important to choose the right setting for the task; for example, a creative brainstorming session might work best in a relaxed, informal setting, while a more analytical brainstorming session might work better in a more formal setting.

10. Follow-up and communicate the outcomes of a brainstorming

The real work begins after the brainstorming session when you follow up and communicate the outcomes to others. This is essential for two reasons. First, it encourages others to participate in future brainstorming sessions. Second, it empowers the participants to see their ideas put into action. Follow-up and communication are essential for turning a good brainstorm into a great one.

Team brainstorming – Groups for better ideas

An important factor influencing effective brainstorming is, of course, the group. The optimal group size is between 6 to 12 people. The selection of brainstorming participants should be as targeted towards the ideas as possible but be heterogeneous (different levels, expertise, etc.). The most suitable persons for your brainstorming sessions:

  • They have a positive attitude towards brainstorming
  • There is a desire to be there to develop the idea
  • They have a positive attitude towards the task itself
  • Ability to think flexibly and abstractly
  • Strong and independent personalities, since the group does not strongly influence them
  • They have as many different pieces of training, different ways of thinking (e.g., creative vs. technical), or different experiences as possible

Most effective techniques for brainstorming

1. Pinboard Cards

Although this method would be considered outdated in times of digitization, advanced platforms, and complex platforms, it is usually still one of the most effective. Here the ideas are pinned to the wall and worked out with the help of cards, markers, and pins.

Method of pinboard cards explained.

Various questions, tasks, and goals are outlined for the participants. So everybody clearly understands what needs to be achieved and the overall topic. Within the process, everyone pins an idea or answer to the question on the wall. If there is already a post with a topic, then it is good to group them. It is also possible to add other posts to others. So the participants can create some “depth” within the topic of this post.

For this brainstorming method, you can use additional techniques to improve the outcome of this classic method and further stimulate the process if they get stuck with their thoughts or if not enough ideas were covered.

The questioning technique

The “Ws” are used in the questioning technique. In doing so, the “Who, What, Why, When, Where?” are asked repeatedly. Example questions can be “Why does someone have problem X,” “Who could need product Y,” and “Where can technology Z be used elsewhere?”

The reversal technique

Here, the opposite is deliberately played out. The question here is not “Who could need product Y and why” but the exact opposite question, “Who can NOT need product Y and why? You can also clarify important questions like it should not be and then make them more efficient. It is advised to use this technique at the beginning of each session to let the creative juices flow.

The subjunctive method

Set no limits for yourself and consciously think “out of the box.” The method consciously asks questions such as “What would have to happen for….” or “Under what circumstances would XYZ work?” This should help make the thoughts freer, so one could find possibilities to make the initially impossible possible by just figuring out the impossible.

2. Why-Analysis

The analysis comes from quality management and is also used in Lean Six Sigma. However, this analysis can also be used very well for group brainstorming.

The problem is presented in the group – or smaller subgroups. The respective group then defines five questions with “why” to shed more light on the problem and possibly get more perspectives. This simple technique can help better analyze complex issues and promote the flow of ideas through open conversations. This process can be repeated at will and also used for sub-problems.

3. Reverse brainstorming

A classic brainstorming method. Here, the first goal of the workshop is not the solution but the problem. It is especially helpful because you focus on the problem and possible causes for the problem beforehand. This results in discussions and insights that go much deeper than the initial understanding of the problem.

Step 1: All group members are encouraged to brainstorm how to cause the problem. This involves collecting all ideas, for example, through pinboard cards or other brainstorming methods, to cause the problem.

Step 2: The identified problems and problem triggers are then used as the basis for the next step. As with classic brainstorming, the focus is then back on the solution. This way, elements that may impact the problem can be addressed individually.

4. Starbusting

Starbusting, like reverse brainstorming, is a method to deal specifically with very complex issues, where issues are often overlooked or where it tends to be difficult to find solutions where the problem is not yet well defined.

The tool is relatively easy to use and works best in teams. The facilitator introduces the problem and encourages the participants to ask as many questions as possible about the problem. The problem is examined from many angles, and these questions can then be answered as a basis for further discussion or as a conversation starter.

5. Figure storming

This brainstorming method is well suited to take other perspectives (e.g., customers, suppliers, etc.). It uses the classic brainstorming method to collect ideas, but with one difference – the facilitator tells the participants to give answers from another person’s point of view. Thus, each participant is forced to put himself in a different perspective, and thus he tries to approach the problem from the point of view of another person.

For example, one can ask: How would an external consultant solve this problem? What would a customer expect from us? How would you, as the company’s CEO, solve this problem?

6. Hemmingway Notebook – collect ideas

Especially very creative people know that ideas are not easy to come up with, and some are just spontaneous. Ideas arise from new influences and new impulses coming from outside. It can be a walk, a shower, lying on the beach, or talking to people.

Hemmingway notebook explained

It is nothing more than having a notebook or notepad with you at all times. However, it is important to distinguish between problems, solutions, concrete ideas, processes, business models, or other information. But you must also review these notes regularly and read them or play them. Everyone has his way of categorizing, dividing, and processing it. However, it is important to note that the ideas must be consistently written down and read through regularly. Since the method can be used for each individual and is not tied to one team or one time, it is recommended to take the time to work through it again.

7. Disney method

The Disney Method, also called the Walt Disney Strategy, is a creativity method and a decision-making aid in one. The whole thing is realized with a role play. The method works best with a team of 3-4 people but can also be done alone. Different roles are assumed, and one lives oneself into this assigned role.

  1. The Dreamer
    In the dreamer’s role, one tries to think freely of “realistic” or “practical.” The aim is to find the most creative ideas possible. The dreamer is enthusiastic, passionate, and does not think about feasibility.
  2. The Realist and the Doer
    The most important elements of the Realist are neutrality and impartiality towards topics. The costs, the technical and practical feasibility of the ideas, the capacities of teams, technologies, and the time required for their implementation are to be considered. The realist has to realize EVERY idea according to the motto “I realize everything.”
  3. The Critic
    Critical questioning, worst-case scenarios, unpleasant truths, weighing things up, and finding weak points. That is the role of the critic. It is important to carefully weigh the ideas and find the weak points that would cause implementation or failure.
  4. The Neutral
    The method also works with the three rollers (1-3), but it is recommended to assume the neutral position of an outsider. This can be a customer, a supplier, the press, or another person observing from outside.

In most cases, an existing idea or a small number of ideas that have already been found can be discussed effectively. To simplify the change of roles, small means such as disguises, different chairs, or also special “thinking corners” with which the persons can put themselves more easily into the role. This is especially important not to slip into a different role, like the realist being the critic or the other way around.

8. De Bono 6 hats thinking

Another method for the efficient brainstorming flow of ideas and feasibility checking of the generated ideas is the De Bono 6 hats method. The method is less suitable for getting completely new ideas, so use it as the Disney method for a few ideas that need to be worked out further. This method is also ideal for taking a business plan to the next level or working on improving a product or service.

The De Bono 6 hats method explains.

The method of the six hats is very visually driven. Visualizing the different colors, each with a different property, is also recommended. Cards, paper hats, or other means should be used to distribute the tasks. Since the method consists of 6 different roles, there must also be six people in the circle, and everyone gets a “hat.” The task or idea is then written down on a flipchart or whiteboard that is visible to everyone.

  • Blue Hat – The moderator: He summarizes everything the different participants say, writes down the important information, and should also be the secretary to the group.
  • Yellow Hat – The optimist: He consistently thinks of the “Best Case” for the idea. It is about seeing the optimum in all areas. He assumes everything goes perfectly regardless of timelines, budget, market, customer expectations, etc.
  • Green hat – The thinker: He may think in broad terms. He should concentrate on bringing in new ideas and thinking “broad” instead of going into depth like the others. So he combines “outside” ideas with the other idea instead of focusing on the details of the idea.
  • Red Hat – The emotional: He may be emotional; his taste, feelings, and personal opinions are in the foreground.
  • Black Hat – The critic: Critics find weak points, address the weak points, criticize ideas, and point out negative aspects. The “worst-case scenario” is his world; for him, everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
  • White Hat – The Lens: Numbers, facts, knowledge, schedules, evidence, statistics & calculations are central to the lenses. This person must be neutral, and all decisions must be provable; if necessary, the numbers and evidence must be demanded.

9. Business Model Canvas

The business model Canvas is especially recommended for developing ideas and aspects of a business plan. Key elements for a successful business are considered. Alexander Osterwalder developed this model, becoming one of the most successful models for building innovative business ideas or rethinking an existing business model. Here is an example of the business model Canvas. Please click on the PDF version.

The most important elements are the following:

  1. Key Partners: Which partners are possible?
  2. Key Activities: What activities must be done to implement the business model?
  3. Value Proposition: What are the benefits and advantages for customers when they buy the products and services?
  4. Customer Relationships: How can target customers be won and retained?
  5. Customer Segments: What are the target customers and customer groups?
  6. Key Resources: Which resources are needed and which are indispensable?
  7. Sales and communication channels: Which channels are used to communicate with the desired target customers? How are the products and services sold?
  8. Cost Structure: What is the most important cost drivers, and would the business model not work without these costs?
  9. Revenue Streams: How is money generated? Where does the business model come from?

The website Canvanizer is also useful if you want to build a business model canvas online.

Business Model Canvas Beispiel
Business Model Canvas Example from Osterwalder

10. Business Mind Maps & Mind Maps for visual brainstorming

Mind maps are an efficient way to visualize ideas and brainstorm. Ideas are presented in a structured way, which helps to stimulate the flow of ideas. The simplest procedure is to write the main term or the problem in the middle of a flipchart, whiteboard, or simply a piece of paper. There are always new branches for new areas of your thoughts so you can differentiate and deep-dive into your ideas without losing track. It is recommended to use different colors to recognize the subcategories better. Here is an example that shows how a mind map can be built:

Brainstorming Methods and Explanation - The 10 Best Techniques for More Ideas 1

Remote brainstorming – 6 Tools that help

Sometimes it is impossible to work in the same room or with the desired group. Several tools help you brainstorm efficiently via chat, video, etc.

When using these tools, it is important to teach everyone beforehand the basics functionalities, so everybody feels enabled to contribute to the brainstorming success.

Here are six tools for effective remote brainstorming

  • AWW Board – Easy Whiteboard to sketch ideas and share them without account etc.
  • – MindMap Tool, which allows brainstorming in groups using the MindMap Technique
  • IdeaBoardz – Create virtual Card Boards and invite collaborators to this Web-Based Tool
  • Realtime Board – Free to use a virtual board to collect ideas, incl. the possibility to upload pictures, etc.
  • Miro – Comprehensive Suite with many different techniques combined. Miro is a great solution for most use cases.
  • Google Docs – As easy as it might sound, you can also share a google doc where everybody can write in a common document. Here it’s important to get a good structure ready before you start.

If you need more tools for your business, I recommend looking into this article: 88+ tools for businesses, home office, and remote work teams.

Benjamin Talin, a serial entrepreneur since the age of 13, is the founder and CEO of MoreThanDigital, a global initiative providing access to topics of the future. As an influential keynote speaker, he shares insights on innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship, and has advised governments, EU commissions, and ministries on education, innovation, economic development, and digitalization. With over 400 publications, 200 international keynotes, and numerous awards, Benjamin is dedicated to changing the status quo through technology and innovation. #bethechange Stay tuned for MoreThanDigital Insights - Coming soon!

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