15 Effective Brainstorming Techniques For Teams
Need to open up discussions? Encourage collaboration? Generate ideas? Find solutions? Brainstorming does all of this – and more. Well, at least it does if your team members are open to the process and feel comfortable letting go of restrictions, judgement, and fear. When they do… magic! You could have your next big product, a compelling marketing campaign, or the ideal solution to a sticky problem trapped in the minds of your people. Bring those ideas into the light of day, and see what happens!
Top Brainstorming Techniques for Teams
Raise your hand if you have ever said this to your people: “We need to solve X. Let’s brainstorm some ideas.” What happens? One of two things tends to happen. Either there is awkward silence or the extroverts and dominant personalities in the room take over, drowning out the thoughts of introverts and more reserved individuals. Neither is really conducive to quality brainstorming.
Luckily, there are several effective brainstorming techniques for teams that you can pull out to capture ideas, discuss and critique suggestions, and select the optimal solution.
- Brainwriting. This is perfect if you have a mix of introverts and extroverts, which you likely do! Present the theme or topic of the brainstorm and give everyone about five minutes to write down three ideas. You don’t want to give too much time: overthinking at this stage can inhibit the creative process. You want big, audacious ideas now. You can refine them later.
Next, have everyone pass their list to the person on their left. That person will build onto those ideas. Keep doing this until the lists make their way around the table. This allows people to expose themselves to ideas that would never have entered their mind – and then use their creativity or other skills to build on them.
- Rapid Ideation. Write down as many ideas as possible in five minutes. GO! You want to create a sense of urgency here, which is why the time limit is important. And it’s short enough where people just put down what they think about agonizing whether it’s a “good” idea. You’ll have time to explore, critique, and flesh them out later.
- Reverse Brainstorming
You brainstorm to try to find solutions to problems. Why not think of ways to cause them? Ok, hear us out. Ask your people to come up with ways to cause a certain type of problem. You can be sure they’ll be able to come up with a long list! From there, get to work on solving them. Why is this beneficial? You’ve already identified the factors that went into creating the problem in the first place. It’s like reverse engineering for challenges!
- Filling the Gap
Ask your team two questions:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be?
Then explore the gap. How can you fill it? Again, it can be helpful to think of it this way because you have identified your starting and end points. All that’s left is to fill in the middle! (Not so easy, but it’ll help guide brainstorming!)
Stimulate effective brainstorming by performing a SWOT analysis – this looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It’s ideal when you are wondering about taking on a project or client, branching out into new markets, etc. It’s a proven method for sparking conversation and ideas.
- Drivers Analysis
You’ve got a problem. Ask questions like:
- What’s driving this decline?
- What’s driving the competition to outperform us?
- What’s driving this reduction in productivity.
Find the drivers. Then you’ll find your solutions.
- The 5 Whys
This brainstorming technique must have been inspired by a curious toddler. Their favorite question: Why? You answer, and they ask, “Why?” You answer again… you know how it goes. Use this. Start by stating a problem or challenge you are facing. “Why is this happening?” You get an answer, so you ask, “Why does this happen?” This leads to another question, and another why. Asking “why” five times helps you dig into the root of the issue.
- Brain Netting
Not all of your people are in the same place at the same time. They may be in different parts of the city, different time zones, or on different continents. Brain netting, or online brainstorming, allows remote team members to participate and contribute. Create a central repository for ideas: this could be on Slack or a simple running Google Doc. You can combine brain netting with other techniques to facilitate the conversation.
- Figure Storming
How would Michael Scott solve this problem?
Ok, maybe not Michael Scott. But in figure storming, your team selects a well-known personality; it can be a fictional character, a celebrity (we vote for Oprah), or even a boss in your company. How would that person approach the problem? Anything that forces people outside of their comfort zone, just enough, can shake loose some excellent ideas. And if they’re thinking like Michael Scott or Oprah, they may be less hesitant to share and less concerned with judgment.
- Mind Mapping
The first idea generated during brainstorming tends to enjoy a bias: people can perceive it as the best. It’s important to go beyond. However, the first idea can provide an important stepping stone as it sparks new, and potentially better, ideas. With mind mapping, you start with one idea and connect sub ideas. You can use tools or a giant whiteboard. It’s also rewarding to see visually how an idea evolves.
- Round Robin
The real value of brainstorming comes through when every member participates and feels free to contribute. With round robin, everyone puts forth one idea. It then makes it around the whole room before anyone can contribute, criticize, elaborate, or discuss. This gives it time to marinate, as it were.
We mentioned the bias towards the first idea. To make sure people don’t fall in love with the initial ideas and risk discounting subsequent (and, in many cases, better) ones, use the step-ladder technique. Introduce the topic of the session. Then tell everyone to leave except for two people. That pair brainstorms for a few minutes. Ask a third person to come back in. They’ll share their ideas before discussing the ideas of the first two. Have people come in one by one and repeat this process. (Ask those outside the room to avoid talking about their idea until they’re back inside).
- Get Out of the Office
A change of scenery can spark new ideas or lines of conversation. So get out. Take your team for a casual lunch. Have an outdoor discussion at the park. Rent office space in Tampa for an hour or two to get the creative juices flowing. It can be hard to think outside the box when you are literally in the same box as always!
- Quantity Over Quality
Look for quantity over quality. You don’t hear this much, but during the brainstorming stage, you want as many ideas as possible. There is time later to dissect them and discard the non-starters. But there may be gems hidden in the seemingly off-hand suggestions people jot down when they are forced (“encouraged”!) to list as many ideas as possible. If you’re generating two or three ideas in a session, it’s a sign that you’re not allowing enough flexibility, freedom, creativity, or time. You may be focusing on criticism or analysis. That has its place, of course, but not here, not now.
When you have selected an idea that seems viable and about which people are excited, try starbursting. Go visual: create an image on your whiteboard or computer. The idea or challenge will be in the center. Draw a six-point star around it, each point of which represents: who, what, when, where, why, and how. For example, who will this product target? When should we launch? Why is this product different from others on the market?
This enables you to look at the idea from various angles. If one person generated the idea, they don’t have to feel like they’re defending it. Rather, the whole team works together to ensure it’s viable and to determine the best methods for execution.
If you feel like your brainstorming sessions are more like brain drizzling, try these effective brainstorming techniques for teams.
When you need space to get creative, Office Evolution is here for you. Learn more about our flexible daily or hourly solutions that allow you to rent office space in Tampa easily, quickly, and conveniently. Why waste all that brainpower figuring out where to work? Save it for changing your company and the world! We’ll handle the rest.