We’ve all been part of mediocre brainstorms. So, what sets apart a better brainstorm?
Coming up with creative ideas requires that you set the right conditions for a generative discussion. It means making space for everyone in the room to contribute with equal consideration, regardless of their role. It should be fast-paced and fun!
- Recruit a group of 4 to 7 people for your brainstorm session. It’s important to get diverse perspectives. You can hold different sessions with different people if you think they’ll be more comfortable sharing.
- Hold your brainstorming session in an area with free wall space. Bring stickies or concept sheets and sharpies with you. Come with 1-3 how might we statements that you’d like to generate ideas on.
- Set the ground rules for a productive brainstorm (see below). Hold the session standing up if you can!
- Pose one of your How Might We statements to the group. Let everyone sketch ideas individually for 10 minutes; then have everyone post their ideas to the wall, one at a time. Let people build on the ideas shared with new ideas that come up for them. See if there are ways to merge related ideas, and cluster those ideas together.
- If some of the ideas seem difficult to act on, you can sort ideas into those that are concrete versus conceptual. Rework conceptual ideas to be more actionable.
- Use dot voting or a 2×2 matrix to determine which ideas to prototype first. You can also use dot voting to recognize ideas that were the most bold, most exciting, most realistic, most user-centric.
- Always leave the door open for people to share more ideas with you after the session is over.
And here are some handy rules for productive brainstorming shared by IDEO.org:
- Defer judgement. You never know where a good idea is going to come from. The key is make everyone feel like they can say the idea on their mind and allow others to build on it.
- Encourage wild ideas. Wild ideas can often give rise to creative leaps. In thinking about ideas that are wacky or out there we tend to think about what we really want without the constraints of technology or materials.
- Build on the ideas of others. Being positive and building on the ideas of others take some skill. In conversation, we try to use “and” instead of “but.”
- Stay focused on the topic. Try to keep the discussion on target, otherwise you can diverge beyond the scope of what you’re trying to design for.
- One conversation at a time. Your team is far more likely to build on an idea and make a creative leap if everyone is paying full attention to whoever is sharing a new idea.
- Be visual. In live brainstorms we write down on Post-its and then put them on a wall. Nothing gets an idea across faster than drawing it. Doesn’t matter if you’re not Rembrandt!
- Go for quantity. This is really important! In a good session, up to 100 ideas are generated in 60 minutes. Crank the ideas out quickly and build on the best ones.