Brainstorming is becoming more and more important in a time of rapid change and flexible team structures. Besides methods of brainstorming, it is also important to know how to implement them successfully to filter out the best of all brainstorming methods.
In our article 6 Successful Methods for Brainstorming & Idea Generation, we have already highlighted several methods of how you can efficiently generate and develop ideas with yourself or your team. Now we want to explain to you what techniques are available to become even more efficient and achieve better results.
In every brainstorming session, there will be some people who say a lot about the topic and others who contribute little or nothing. This is then an example of how brainstorming can also go wrong.
The most important principle to have effective brainstorming is the quantity and not quality. People need to understand that there are no bad ideas, just ideas. Especially when you are at the beginning to develop new projects, products, or ideas, you need many ideas and a lot of “input”. Many of the team members think that they have to filter the statements and this can lead to the loss of valuable ideas or food for thought.
Another common mistake is that people think that there is only one way to brainstorm. The problem is that, according to a study by Leigh Thompson, 60-75% of what is said comes from just a few people, and the others than focus on this topic and continue to spin it. Thus, the topic is focused, although the goal would be to discuss possible other ideas.
Brainstorming methods for more efficiency in groups
To avoid these mistakes and to make brainstorming more efficient, we have put together 7 methods
Brain Writing – Every man for himself
In contrast to methods such as “pinboard cards”, the goal here is that no one sees the ideas of the other, and thus no possibility for criticism or evaluation can take place. The leader of the brainstorming session sets the topic and each member of the team writes down the ideas on their own piece of paper.
If there are many introverted people or strong influencers in groups, this method is very valuable and helpful. Such individual brainstorming methods are especially helpful when the group dynamics are strong or the group is divided very heterogeneously.
Round Robin Brainstorming – Once the round
This method is very easy to implement. You set up all the participants in a large circle and each one comes in turn and has to express his idea. The leader of the circle notes down everything that is said and records it for the discussion that follows. Of course, no ideas must be evaluated or even criticized until everyone has had a chance to express their ideas. It is best if each participant is only allowed to speak when it is his turn or when the discussion starts.
In the end, all topics can be discussed and everyone can give his or her input on the individual ideas, which will be recorded. If someone says “Someone has already mentioned my idea” while generating ideas, you should give them more time and ask them again at the end. Until then, he should have enough time to come up with an idea.
Rapid Ideation – Under time pressure
The basic idea behind this technique is that people filter less and “rethink” less under pressure. The group leader shares important information such as topic, budget, restrictions, deadlines, etc. with the team members and then a time limit is set. The goal is to write down and collect as many ideas and thoughts around the topic in a short time. Various means can be used such as paper, post-its, whiteboards, computers, etc. The means must be chosen as the project needs them or the team feels most comfortable and of course, everything can be mixed.
Depending on the complexity of the topic or the size of the project, the time can be chosen between 5 or 45 minutes and should not be too long. This way all persons can write down their ideas but don’t have the time to think about anything too deeply.
Starbursting – Ask questions
Why not turn the tables? This technology deals with questions and not with answers. The goal of this brainstorming is to raise as many questions about a topic as possible and write them down.
This method is not only good if you want to create a FAQ section on your website, but also for complex topics. It helps you not to overlook too much and is especially efficient for teams that often tend to overlook or forget things. Again, it is important to note down all questions and keep them in a central place, as well as writing answers to them. Many of the things can be extended during the course of the project or serve as help for further decisions.
Figuring Storming – What would he think?
What would the customer think? What would the boss think? What would a celebrity say? – These and other questions are the goal of Figuring Storming. You put yourself in the position of another person and try to answer the question from their perspective. Especially when teams are distributed very homogeneously, such methods are very helpful. This puts them in a different position and forces them to think more “out-of-the-box”.
Especially the fact that you pretend to be somebody else and are not responsible for the statements can also lead to curious but also valuable ideas and statements being generated by the brainstorming method.
Stepladder method – step by step to the goal
The brainstorming method was developed in 1992 and is designed to ensure that everyone on the brainstorming team can contribute without being influenced too much by others.
In the beginning, after the topic etc. has been shared, all participants leave the room and only two experts remain in the room. These two specialists discuss the topic and their ideas about it. Then another specialist joins the group, who has worked out his idea in a separate room. BEFORE the two existing experts present their ideas, the new one is allowed to present his idea. This is then done step by step until all team members are back in the room.
Due to the rigid procedure, even shy members of the group feel encouraged to present their ideas and therefore cannot be intimidated by a larger group. Another advantage of this advanced method is that it promotes individual ideas and uses group discussion to develop them further. Optimal group sizes should be chosen depending on the topic and complexity, but it is advisable to use between 5-15 people, as more people can usually contribute only marginally more, but the more time is needed, the more time is needed.
One of the challenges is always noting down and archiving ideas. Since many companies already have collaboration or project tools anyway, you can also use them to generate ideas. Ideas can be entered online and then shared with the team. The advantage is that all information has already been saved and can be retrieved at a later time.
Possible online tools for brainstorming:
- Collaboration Software
- Project Management Tools
- Mind map Software
- Word / Excel
- specialized brainstorming software
General tips for brainstorming
There are many small examples of how to improve brainstorming. It depends of course on the company culture, the people involved and also on your own preferences.
Brainstorming music in the background
Some studies have shown that music can also stimulate brain activity. So it may be advisable to play background music that is not too loud. Especially instrumental music, because singing is distracting, can be helpful, lift the mood and also have a calming effect. A fixed tempo of the music and more even pitches should be chosen. Classical music and deep house are suitable examples.
Brainstorming requires a clear goal and also a clear delimitation of the topic. The challenge for the team leader is to define exactly how and what the participants should discuss. If the topic is too broad, the ideas may be too far apart and the desired goal may not be achieved. It must also be clear under which conditions and limitations the team should work or think.
Quantity for the beginning
The goal of brainstorming is to simply work out ideas. No matter if good, bad, long or short elaborated. Every input must be appreciated and the participants must be trained to say or write down as much as possible. Even banal, stupid, or even curious ideas can be food for thought, which you might use as a basis for another idea.
Have fun collecting your ideas!