Time Frame

5-30 Minutes

Solo / Team

Solo / Groups of 3-4 people

Difficulty

Low

What you need

Pen & Paper, Timer

What it is

Brainstorming is an activity that helps you to generate more innovative ideas. Brainstorming is the most popular ideation method for creatives and mainly used during the divergent phase of the creative process. A brainstorming session can be done solo or in a group setting. However, keeping the group limited works best to keep the ideation session focused and avoid unrelated conversations. Brainstorming is effective at generating a large number of ideas that gives you the freedom to solve challenges from different angles.

When to use

Brainstorming is an effective way to:

  • Produce a large number of ideas
  • Generate ideas quickly
  • Expand your portfolio of alternatives

How it works

Brainstorming is fairly simple and easy to get started. You can do it any time and any where. Even in a bar sketching on a napkin while sipping a cocktail. All you need is pen and paper and a timer.

But before you start, here are a few tips for a great brainstorming session:

  • Defer judgment – quantity is key
  • Think big – go for wild ideas
  • Focus on the topic
  • Be visual (This is how our brain works best, checkout my articles how to sketch ideas quickly)
  • For group sessions, keep it small (3-4 people), split up into more groups with more people and bring ideas together later
  • Time-box your session, otherwise you lose focus/li>
  • Don’t overthink!

Step 1 – Define the problem and the goal

Define the problem that you want to solve and lay out the criteria/restrictions that you want to meet.

Example: “How can I help people lose weight quickly while traveling using no equipment?”

Step 2 – Set a timer

The goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible without being too critical. Quantity is key at this stage. As a result, it is easy to fall into the trap of having an open-ended session. Creativity works best with constraints. Set yourself a time limit so you don’t overthink and jump back and forth between old ideas. 3-5 minutes is great for the start. Repeat multiple rounds if necessary until you feel that you have enough ideas.

Step 3 – Go big first

To generate original ideas, it’s important to go beyond your comfort zone. To do that, you need to explore various directions that may not be obvious at first. When you start, go for big ideas first. Don’t worry if it’s feasible or not at this point. Make sure you cover as many directions as possible.

Continuing the fitness example, we can come up with ideas using different furnitures and locations on a makro level:

  • using chair
  • using bed
  • while showering
  • etc…

Step 4 – Go small

After going big and exploring various directions, it is time to go deeper. You can go through each makro level and start generating ideas in that section. Again, generate as many ideas as possible.

Step 5 – Prioritize your idea(s)

After going through all areas and feeling good about the amount of ideas you came up with, you can continue to vote for the best idea(s). Voting is an essential part of ideation because it helps you to focus. How many ideas you want to prioritize is up to you. But I wouldn’t recommend to keep the list too long.

Here is a rough guideline:  If you have 100 ideas, narrow down to your best 10 ideas. If you have 10 ideas, then select your top 1 idea.

Once you have your top ideas, you can start another ideation session to go further into details.