6 successful methods for brainstorming & idea creation (2020 Update)

The best methods to be creative and get the best out of your brainstorming

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 methods, the brainstorming juices can flow at full speed. Here we show you the 6 most successful methods and tell you efficient brainstorming tips and tricks.

Basics about brainstorming

Let’s mention the most important rule:


When brainstorming with various people, it is important to consider all ideas as valuable and see them as help for further ideas. So don’t criticize it right away, but consider this contribution as a valuable addition, otherwise you prevent the flow of ideas before it can really begin start to flow, just because someone is inhibited or frightened to say something. Efficient brainstorming is just working out when everybody feels appreciated and their ideas welcomed.

Team for brainstorming 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 twoards the ideas as possible but should be heterogeneous (also different levels, expertises 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 they are not strongly influenced by the group
  • They have as many different trainings, different ways of thinking (e.g. creative vs. technical) or different experiences as possible

6 effective methods 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Although this method would be considered outdated in times of digitization, advanced platforms and complex platforms, it is usually still one of the most effective.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 simply 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 gets a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved and what the overall topic is about. Within the process everyone pins an idea or answer to 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 further 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 further improve the outcome of this classic method or to 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 over and over. Example questions can be “Why does someone have problem X”, “Who could need product Y”, “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 it 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 tries to ask questions such as “What would have to happen for….” or “Under what circumstances would XYZ work?” This should help to make the thoughts freer and so one could possibly then find possibilities to somehow make the initially impossible possible by just figuring out the impossible.

2. Hemmingway Notebook – collect ideas

Especially very creative people know that ideas are not easy to come up with and some of them 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

Basically, 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 also have to look at these notes regularly and read them or play them through. Everyone has his own way of categorizing, dividing and processing it. However, it is important to note that the ideas must be consistently written down and also read through regularly Since the method can be used for each individual and is not tied to one team or one time, it is therefore recommended to take the time to work through it again.

3. Disney method

The Disney Method, also called the Walt Disney Strategy, is a creativity method as well as 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 asigned role.

  1. The Dreamer In the role of the dreamer one tries to think freely of “realistic” or “practical”. The aim is to find the most creative ideas possible. The dreamer is, so to speak, enthusiastic, passionate and does not think about feasibility.
  2. The Realist and the Doer The most important elements of the Realist are the neutrality as well as the impartiality towards topics. The costs, the technical and practical feasibility of the ideas as well as 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 up the ideas and find the weak points that would cause implementation or failure.
  4. The Neutral The method actually also works with the 3 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. In order 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, lie the realist beeing the critic or the other way around.

4. De Bono 6 hats thinking

Another method for the an efficient brainstorming flow of ideas and also for the feasibility checking of the generated ideas is the De Bono 6 hats method. Method is less suitable for getting completely new ideas, so use it like 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 6 hats is very visually driven. It is also recommended to visualize the different colors, each with a different property. 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 6 people in the circle and everyone gets a “hat”. The task or idea is then written down in a flipchart or whiteboard that is visible to everyone.

  • Blue Hat – The moderator: He summarizes everything what 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. No matter if timelines, budget, market, customer expectations etc. he assumes that everything goes perfect.
  • 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, his feelings and his feelings and personal opinions are in the foreground.
  • Black Hat – The critic: Cricits find weak points, specifically address the weak points, criticize ideas and also point out negative aspects. The “worst case scenario” is his world and for him everything which 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 of this person must be provable and if necessary the numbers and evidence must be demanded.

5. 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 has developed this model and it has become one of the most successful models to build innovative business ideas or to rethink an existing business model. Here is an example of the business model Canvas. Please click for the PDF version.

The most important elements are the following:

  1. Key Partners: Which partners are possible?
  2. Key Activities: What are the activities that need to 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 target 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 are the most important cost drivers and without which costs would the business model not work?
  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.

6. Business Mind Maps & Mind Maps for the visualization of ideas

Mind maps are an efficient way to visualize ideas as well as brainstorming. 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 but also deepdive into your ideas without loosing track. It is recommended to use different colors to better recognize the subcategories. Here is an example that shows how a mind map can be built:

Remote brainstorming – 6 Tools that help

Sometimes it is not possible to work in the same room or with the desired group. Luckily there are several tools available to help you with efficient brainstorming via chat, video etc. 

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

Here are 6 tools for effective remote brainstorming

  • AWW Board – esay Whitebaord to sketch ideas and share it without account etc.
  • Bubble.us – 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 virtual board to collect ideas incl. possibility to upload pictures etc.
  • Miro – Comprehensive Suite with many different techniques combined. Miro is a great solution for most usecases.
  • Google Docs – As easy as it might sound, but you can also simply share a google doc where everybody can simply write in a common document. Here its important to get a good structure ready before you start.

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

CEO & Founder of MoreThanDigital. Serial entrepreneur since he successfully founded his first companies at the age of 13. He has always questioned the "status quo" and is committed to innovation, disruption and new ideas. As International keynote speaker, consultant for companies and governments & states, lecturer and published digital transformation expert, Benjamin tries to advance the topics of digitalization, digital transformation and innovation internationally.

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