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8 Techniques for Productive Brainstorming

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 4 min read

Brainstorming is a great way to get outside your comfort zone and find creative solutions to problems that might otherwise stump you. Brainstorming works for creatives in a variety of fields, from a writer trying to beat writer’s block, to an advertising executive hoping to generate new copy. There are a variety of traditional brainstorming techniques that can help you gain new perspectives and come up with a large number of ideas.



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8 Brainstorming Techniques for Generating Creative Ideas

There are no set brainstorming rules, and effective brainstorming can take many different forms. Whether you prefer jotting down ideas on notecards during individual brainstorming sessions or leading group discussions around a whiteboard, there are a variety of brainstorming strategies that you can tailor to your needs and preferences. These include:

  1. Figure storming: Figure storming is a fun and creative method of brainstorming in which brainstormers place themselves in the shoes of a different person and ask themselves how that figure might approach a specific problem. The person you choose can be a friend or family member, or even a famous historical figure. The point is to get you out of your own head and set of assumptions and practice some creative problem solving from someone else’s point of view.
  2. Reverse brainstorming: Most brainstorming models ask you to use creative thinking to solve problems. Reverse brainstorming is a brainstorming exercise that asks you to do the opposite: How you can create new problems or make existing problems worse? The goal is to approach issues in the workplace from different perspectives and gain insight into the factors that contribute to these problems. Once you brainstorm how to create problems, you’ll be better equipped to fix existing ones.
  3. Brainwriting: This technique involves asking team members to jot down ideas on a piece of paper or sticky note; these ideas are then shared anonymously with the rest of the group by a leader. Brainwriting is a great way to give people the freedom to share unusual ideas without fear of judgement. Brainwriting can be used at the beginning of a group brainstorming session to get the ball rolling and present a general topic or two for further discussion.
  4. SWOT analysis: “SWOT” stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.” SWOT analysis is a brainstorming technique used in businesses to evaluate the relative strength of a new venture. SWOT is designed to give brainstorming groups or individuals a bird’s-eye view of a problem or proposal to decide if it holds up to scrutiny.
  5. Starbursting: Most brainstorming techniques focus on finding a number of ideas that solve a creative problem or answer an overarching question. Starbursting is an idea-generation technique that instead pushes a group of people to focus on asking questions. Starbursting is a great way to get brainstorming groups to explore potential problems or pitfalls that might face a new company sometime in the future.
  6. Stepladder brainstorming: Stepladder brainstorming is designed to give individuals in a small group a chance to build off each other’s ideas. A stepladder session begins with every member of a brainstorming group leaving the room except for two people. These two individuals discuss their own ideas about whatever particular topic is up for discussion. After a predetermined period of time, another group member enters the room and offers their thoughts. This continues until each group member has had their time to enter the room and share their individual thoughts. The stepladder method is a great way to give shy group members a voice and meld a group brainstorming method with a more individualized approach.
  7. Round robin brainstorming: Round robin brainstorming is another great approach to use in a group setting, particularly if you’re working with larger groups. Round robin brainstorming groups generally sit in a circle. Each individual shares their own unique ideas one by one as the focus moves around the circle. Like stepladder brainstorming, round robin brainstorming gives everyone a voice. The advantage of a round robin session is that it can be used with a larger group and generally takes less time than the stepladder method.
  8. Rapid ideation: The goal of a rapid ideation brainstorming session is to encourage group members to open up and offer outside-the-box ideas in a fast-paced discussion. Often people’s inhibitions get in the way of their creative process. Rapid ideation encourages people to offer wild ideas without fear of criticism.

Whether you’re looking for a new perspective on a business decision or are freewriting to get yourself out of a creative rut, experimenting with new brainstorming techniques can help you generate creative ideas and aid in your decision-making. Knowing which techniques work for you and practicing them in a professional setting will help you become a better creator and collaborator.

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