Every office in the world has seen its fair share of brainstorming. Typically, a boss will call a meeting and ask those present for ideas about the challenge or issue that the team is facing.
Many brainstorming meetings are conducted without thought or structure and tend to be underwhelming. They’re often dominated by the same people, and the quieter ones in the room don’t always get the chance to have their voices heard.
With that in mind, here are seven inventive brainstorming methods that will encourage your team to come up with awesome ideas and improve their problem-solving capabilities.
One of the most effective brainstorming ideas is actually non-verbal – brainwriting. Get your team together around the table and ask each member to write three ideas down on a sheet of paper. Allow no more than five minutes for thinking and ensure there’s no talking or discussion.
Once everyone has written their ideas down, ask them to share the paper with the person to their right. That person then adds their thoughts to the three ideas, building upon the points made and making suggestions. Keep this up until the paper arrives back at the person who wrote it in the first instance (or for perhaps five iterations, whichever comes first).
It’s now time to review all of the ideas that have been presented and amended until you collectively decide on those that are most relevant and likely to be implemented. If your team is meeting remotely, the process can be done over Zoom & Slack, so you don’t need to be together in person for this brainstorming exercise to work out.
One for the creative teams out there, this approach to brainstorming sees you select a figure – it can be a real person, fictional character, or charismatic public figure – and discuss how you think that person would deal with the problem your team is facing.
Although it seems like a strange way to approach a team issue, forcing your team to put themselves in someone else’s shoes will encourage them to think about the problem from a totally unique angle.
It’s also an effective way of encouraging people to put forward ideas that they might not feel comfortable expressing as their own. For instance, suggesting that Barack Obama might solve a problem in a certain way is much easier than putting your own name to a certain suggestion, only for others in the team to shoot it down.
Magic wand thinking
Sometimes, members of your team need permission to think completely outside the box. Magic wand thinking is about removing all barriers and asking your team to come up with solutions that would be possible if they were holding a magic wand in their hands.
No longer constrained by time, money, personnel, or circumstances, magic wand planning can bring about truly unique and raw ideas that you can start to work through. Granted, some of the ideas brought to the table will be far from actionable, but others might be possible with the right support.
A little like figure storming, magic wand planning is all about removing barriers and encouraging your team to think differently, which typically results in new and interesting ideas presenting themselves.
Pioneered by psychologist Jacqueline Susan, eidetic imagery is a brainstorming technique that relies on the vivid imagery within your team’s imagination and life events. The premise is simple enough: you ask your team to close their eyes for 2-3 minutes while they think about a solution to the problem you’re discussing.
This is particularly helpful when you’re trying to conceptualize a new product, like a new set of wireless earphones. By focusing their mind on their own solution, they can visualize something that is totally unique to them. You then ask each person to pull forth the eidetic image, which in this example would be your company’s current earphones.
Your team is now free to amend the concept that they pictured in their minds. After several minutes of visualization, go around the room in a round-robin format and ask each person to describe the design that they visualized. You will now have an entire room of new ideas and fresh thoughts about a product and bring together the best ones.
For round-robin brainstorming to be effective, bring everyone together in a circle. Then, ask the team leader or meeting facilitator to make a statement regarding the problem you’re all trying to solve together. You then go around the group inviting everyone to make a contribution.
It’s important not to skip people and to prevent the dominant members of the team from talking excessively. One of the benefits of this type of brainstorming is that you will hear from some of the quieter members of the team, and they have the chance to express themselves.
You will find it helpful to set some ground rules at the start of the meeting and make sure everyone is aware that they will get their turn. Also, make it clear that cutting in or arguing with a point won’t be tolerated, ensuring everyone’s thoughts are respected and considered.
Perfect for remote workers and teams spread out in different locations, brain netting utilizes the latest technology to provide team members to share ideas in real-time. The team leader or facilitator is responsible for creating a Google Doc or Slack group that will be used as the net.
Then, invite all team members to share their ideas and potential solutions in real-time. It’s helpful to some rough stylistic guidelines to ensure you can easily work through the various thoughts shared via the cloud.
Once all the ideas are in place, you can sift through them and ask the team to leave their comments on other ideas that they resonate with. Just like brain writing, brain netting is an excellent way of giving everyone the chance to express their thoughts before building on ideas collectively.
Five “whys?” analysis
Have you ever been subjected to a torrent of “Whys?” by your toddler who just won’t take your explanation as gospel? If so, you know how creative you need to be to satisfy their curiosity with your responses!
While adults typically don’t require the same degree of justification or explanation for statements made and answers given, the five “whys?” analysis is an excellent way to get to the bottom of a particular problem.
You put your colleagues on the spot and ask them to justify their reasoning. While they won’t always come up with satisfactory explanations, it will encourage them to think much deeper about a particular issue.
So, when someone in the team presents a problem, they need to be prepared to answer five “whys?” that are thrown their way by the facilitator!
Brainstorming is an integral part of any workplace culture and enables you and your colleagues to get to the bottom of the most stubborn issues. At its heart, brainstorming is all about getting ideas out there, which your team can then discuss and debate.
The above five brainstorming techniques will ensure your team thinks outside the box. No longer confined by rationale or reasoning, they will feel empowered to approach problems differently and hopefully generate innovative solutions that the whole team can benefit from.