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.

Behind every successful company there are great ideas. But how do you come up with these ideas, and how do you make them happen? Some ideas come because someone is “kissed by the muse”, but what does the rest of the population do? – By using a variety of brainstorming techniques, you can get the brainstorming juices flowing 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, which described a method for generating new ideas. The basic idea of brainstorming is that it is a way of generating a large number of ideas quickly and then evaluating them later to see which are the most promising.

The original brainstorming technique involved a group of people getting together in a room and generating ideas. The aim was to gather as many ideas as possible without judging or evaluating them. Participants were encouraged to think outside the box and come up with 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 such as Brainstormer or IdeaStorm.

How to brainstorm ideas effectively.

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

  1. The method is appropriate
    The best brainstorming methods aren’t always the ones that encourage people to think creatively and come up with out-of-the-box ideas. Some methods are better suited to evaluating, refining or digging 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 diverse groups with different perspectives and expertise.
  3. The method should be structured
    A well-structured brainstorming session helps to ensure that all ideas are given equal consideration and that the best ideas are selected.
  4. Make sure the method is enjoyable
    Brainstorming should be fun and creative, so choose a method that everyone enjoys.

10 tips for great brainstorming

It’s no surprise that brainstorming, a technique for generating new ideas, doesn’t always work. The truth is that it’s difficult to manage many different aspects at once, and creative thinking is no different. For brainstorming to be successful, people need to feel free to share their ideas without criticism or judgement. Also, everyone in the group needs to be attentive and give each idea its due consideration. Finally, there must be enough space for abstract ideas to flourish.

1. Set the objectives of the sessions in advance

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

2. Getting into the right frame of mind

Some exercises can help participants get into the right frame of mind for brainstorming. For example, asking everyone to write a list of ten ideas for a new product or service can help get the creative juices flowing. Alternatively, you could ask people to come up with ideas to solve a problem. Either way, getting people to relax and focus on the task can help them come up with more ideas.

Tip: Play games with the participants. This will help to get them in the right frame of mind.

3. Be a good facilitator – give everyone a voice

For brainstorming to be successful, participants need to feel free to share their ideas without criticism or judgement. In addition, everyone in the group needs to be attentive and give due consideration to each idea. Good facilitation is a key factor in ensuring that everyone has a voice. This includes giving everyone a chance to speak and distributing speaking time fairly. It’s also important to ensure that no one person 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. Value all ideas and contributions

Make sure that everyone’s contribution is valuable. Even if an idea doesn’t seem helpful at first, it may spark another idea.

5. Encourage out-of-the-box thinking when 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 unrelated at first. So don’t dismiss them – cherish them! They could be the spark you need to develop your next big idea.

6. Give everyone space and freedom

Brainstorming can be a lot of fun, but it’s also important to allow some freedom and space for creative thinking. 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 to sparking creativity.

7. Write down abstract ideas to make new connections

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

8. Write down everything and every idea

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

9. Choose the right environment

The right environment 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 results of a brainstorming session

The real work begins after the brainstorming session when you follow up and communicate the results to others. This is important for two reasons. First, it encourages others to participate in future brainstorming sessions. Second, it empowers participants to see their ideas put into action. Follow-up and communication are essential to 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 may seem outdated in an age of digitalisation, advanced platforms and complexity, it is usually still one of the most effective. Ideas are pinned to the wall and worked on using cards, markers and pins.

The pinboard method is explained.

Different questions, tasks and objectives are outlined to the participants. This ensures that everyone understands what needs to be achieved and the overall theme. As part of the process, everyone pins an idea or answer to the question on the wall. If there is already a post on a topic, it is a good idea to group them together. It is also possible to add posts to other posts. In this way, 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 to further stimulate the process if they get stuck with their thoughts or if not enough ideas have been covered.

The questioning technique

The ‘W’s’ are used in the questioning technique. This involves repeatedly asking “Who, What, Why, When, Where? Examples of questions might be “Why does someone have problem X?”, “Who might need product Y?” and “Where can technology Z be used elsewhere?

The reversal technique

Set yourself no limits and consciously think ‘out of the box’. The method involves consciously asking questions such as “What would have to happen for ….” or “Under what circumstances would XYZ work?” This should help to free up your thoughts so that you can find ways to make the seemingly impossible possible, just by thinking about the impossible.

The subjunctive method

Set yourself no limits and consciously think ‘out of the box’. The method involves consciously asking questions such as “What would have to happen for ….” or “Under what circumstances would XYZ work?” This should help to free up your thoughts so that you can find ways to make the seemingly impossible possible, just by thinking about the impossible.

2. Why-Analysis

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

The problem is presented to the group – or smaller sub-groups. The group then defines five “why” questions to shed more light on the problem and possibly get more perspectives. This simple technique can help to better analyse complex issues and encourage the flow of ideas through open conversation. This process can be repeated at will and 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 particularly helpful because you focus on the problem and possible causes of the problem beforehand. This leads to discussions and insights that go much deeper than the initial understanding of the problem.

Step 1: All members of the group are encouraged to brainstorm about the causes of the problem. This can be done by using pin boards or other brainstorming methods to collect all the ideas that could cause the problem.

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

4. Starbusting

Starbusting, like Reverse Brainstorming, is a method specifically designed to deal with very complex problems, where issues are often overlooked or where it is difficult to find solutions because the problem is not yet well defined.

The tool is relatively simple to use and works best in teams. The facilitator introduces the problem and encourages 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 for getting different perspectives (e.g. customers, suppliers, etc.). It uses the classic brainstorming method to collect ideas, but with one difference – the facilitator asks participants to give answers from someone else’s point of view. In this way, each participant is forced to take a different perspective and try to approach the problem from another person’s point of view.

For example: How would an external consultant solve this problem? What would a client expect from us? How would you, as the CEO of the company, solve this problem?

6. Hemmingway Notebook – collect ideas

Very creative people, in particular, know that ideas do not come easily or spontaneously. Ideas come from new influences and new impulses that come from outside. It can be a walk, a shower, lying on the beach or talking to people.

Hemmingway’s notebook explained

It is nothing more than having a notebook or notepad with you at all times. It is important to distinguish between problems, solutions, concrete ideas, processes, business models and other information. But you also need to check these notes regularly and read or play them back. Everyone has their own way of categorising, organising and processing them. What is important is that the ideas are consistently written down and read through regularly. As the method can be used by anyone and is not tied to a team or a particular time, it is recommended that you take the time to go through it again.

7. Disney method

The Disney Method, also known as the Walt Disney Strategy, is a creativity method and a decision-making tool in one. It is carried out using role play. The method works best with a team of 3-4 people, but can also be done alone. You take on different roles and live yourself into the role you have been given.

  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 make the role change easier, small things like disguises, different chairs or special “thinking corners” can help people to get into the role more easily. It is particularly important not to slip into another role, such as the realist becoming the critic, or vice versa.

8. De Bono 6 hats thinking

Another method for an efficient brainstorming idea flow and feasibility check of the ideas generated is the De Bono 6 hats method. It is less suitable for generating completely new ideas, so use it like the Disney method for a few ideas that need further work. It 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 explained

The six hats method is very visual. Visualising the different colours, each with a different property, is also recommended. Cards, paper hats or other means should be used to distribute the tasks. As the method involves 6 different roles, there must be 6 people in the circle and everyone is given a ‘hat’. The task or idea is then written on a flipchart or whiteboard where everyone can see it.

  • 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 particularly useful for developing ideas and aspects of a business plan. Key elements for a successful business are considered. Developed by Alexander Osterwalder, it has become one of the most successful models for developing innovative business ideas or rethinking an existing business model. Here is an example of the Canvas business model. 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 effective way of visualising ideas and brainstorming. Ideas are presented in a structured way, which helps to stimulate the flow of ideas. The simplest way is to write the main concept or problem in the middle of a flipchart, whiteboard or just a piece of paper. There are always new branches for new areas of your thoughts, so you can differentiate and delve deeper into your ideas without losing track. It is recommended that you use different colours to help you identify the sub-categories. Here is an example of how to build a mind map:

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 same group. Several tools can help you to brainstorm efficiently via chat, video, etc.

When using these tools, it is important that everyone is trained in the basic functions beforehand, so that everyone feels able to contribute to the success of the brainstorming.

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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