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What are the different brainstorming methods?

Image credit: Photo by Juan Rumimpunu on Unsplash

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 20, 2020
What are the different brainstorming methods you use? Can you think of any other brainstorming method more advantageous in general or for specific types of problems than those listed below?

We know that brainstorming is an early step creative process used to generate possible solutions to a problem. Here are a few types of brainstorming I stumbled upon:
  1. Reverse Brainstorming: A problem is turned around and considered from a different perspective to generate a different set of solutions.
  2. Stop-and-Go Brainstorming: Alternating between timed brainstorming and evaluation sessions. The evaluation sessions are probably to channelize the brainstorming ideas.
  3. Phillips 66 Brainstorming: A group of six people brainstorms for six minutes and then they present their ideas.
  4. Brainwriting: People brainstorm individually first, and then share the ideas with the group.
Can you think of any other types of brainstorming?

[1]https://www.theedadvocate.org/the-4-types-of-brainstorming/

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Creative contributions

Group passing method

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
Group passing method gives each group member an opportunity of writing down their best idea anonymously. All participants then take turns in reviewing and building upon each of the ideas. By the time all participants are done the group will have extensively elaborated on all ideas. This is followed by a read-out and discussion of all contributions.

Individual brainstorming

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
Individual brainstorming makes use of several solitary techniques such as word association, free speaking, free writing, drawing mind maps, and flowcharts to visualize one’s thoughts. Online researching and watching youtube lectures also helps seed the mind with ideas.

Combining ideas

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 24, 2020
After a group brainstorms and creates a list of solutions to the problem at hand, create a mind map of the solutions. You will see categories of solutions emerging through the mind map. From each category, you can select either the best solution or a combination of solutions that make it even better.

Separating the obvious from the creative ideas

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 24, 2020
When you brainstorm individually, you may list several ideas but picking the really good and unique ones out of the list may be a difficult task. When in such a dilemma, ask your colleagues and friends to brainstorm on the same topic and list their ideas. You will see that some ideas are listed by multiple people. These are the most obvious and you can ignore them. Focus on the rarer ones and then choose an appropriate one.

Disney method

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 24, 2020
This is a creativity technique developed by Robert Dilts in 1994. There are four different points of view to come up with ideas – the outsider, the dreamer, the realist, and the critic. Brainstorming can be performed in two different ways: 1. A group uses four different thinking styles in turn to procure ideas from the four different perspectives. 2. The participants are divided into four groups that present ideas from their respective points of view. The outsiders try to gain an analytical, external view of the challenge. The dreamers brainstorm for solutions. They use divergent thinking to conceive the most creative ideas. The realists use convergent thinking to review the ideas listed by the dreamers. They select the best idea and construct a plan for its execution. The critics review the plan made by the realists and identify weaknesses, obstacles, and risks. They then think of alternatives to improve the plan.

Six-thinking-hats technique

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 24, 2020
This is an extension of the Disney method. Instead of the four points of view, this method has six. 1. White hat: Thinking purely based on evidence (the realist). 2. Red hat: Thinking out of feelings and emotions (dreamer-like view) 3. Black hat: Thinking with criticism and caution (the critic) 4. Yellow hat: Positive pragmatic thinking (the practical view) 5. Green hat: Creative, unusual, and original thinking (the dreamer) 6. Blue hat: Making sure the other participants play their roles correctly (the moderator)

Random stimulus word method

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 24, 2020
A random word is given to the brainstormers and they are expected to come up with solutions that link the random word to the question at hand. For example, a family is planning its next holiday destination. The random word given is “pocketknife”. It is associated with the concept “almost all the required things packed in a compact space”. Therefore, the solution can be renting an RV (recreational vehicle) or a trailer for the holidays. Reference: https://www.ideaclouds.net/stimulus-word

Osborn’s original brainstorming method

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
Osborn’s method takes into account two principles (deferred judgment and reaching for quantity). It aims to stimulate idea generation, achieve reduced social inhibitions among participants, and increase the overall creativity of the group. At the initial stage, the group is going for sheer quantity and withholding criticism of ideas. Unrealistic ideas are welcome as they might contribute to the final solution. In the final stages, the useful ideas are combined and improved upon until a final, working version is created.

Brainwriting

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
Brainwriting solves several potential drawbacks of the brainstorming process. Participants write down their contributions anonymously which gives them the freedom to express their thoughts without bias, even those that they otherwise might have thought were too unusual, or would not be well received. There is no discussion during the initial idea gathering phase, so no opportunity for charismatic extroverts to dominate and bias the brainstorming session. Brainwriting empowers the shy and quiet people who might otherwise not contribute as much. After the initial gathering round, the papers with contributions are shuffled and switched among the group. The participants then evaluate and build on top of other people's ideas. This process can be repeated for several rounds as decided by the moderator. In the final stage, all the ideas are written on a whiteboard for everyone to see. Then begins the discussion to select or create the best version.

Idea book method

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
The idea book method takes longer because an actual book has to circulate between group members. On the first page of the book, there is a definition of the problem. The first person who receives the book writes his solution proposals and passes the book to the next member. The next person can either add more ideas or expand on the already-existing ones. When all members are done with the book a follow-up read and discussion session is held.

Nominal group method

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
The nominal group method requires a trained facilitator. Participants write their ideas anonymously. The facilitator collects them and oversees the consolidation of similar ideas. The group then votes on each of the proposed solutions. This process creates a list of top-ranked ideas which are then sent back to the group for further brainstorming.

Team idea mapping method

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
The team idea mapping method creates a visual representation of the ideas, connected in an interrelated, branched map. By visualizing the solutions in this format, new ideas may arise by association and would be added to the map as well. Participants start by brainstorming individually, all ideas are then collected and put on the map. When the map is complete, the group prioritizes the ideas and formulates the way forward.

Directed brainstorming

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
Directed brainstorming is a linear approach that concentrates on one idea at a time. The process is led by a facilitator who guides the group through predefined ideation constraints of the session (set of criteria for evaluating a good idea). The directed brainstorming process is similar to the group passing method. Each participant is asked to produce one contribution. The initial contributions are then randomly swapped between group members who are asked to look at the idea and write a new one that improves on that idea considering the predefined set of criteria. The swapping rounds are repeated several times.

Question brainstorming (“Questorming”)

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
Question brainstorming (“Questorming”) focuses on producing questions rather than answers and solutions. Once the list of questions is exhausted it’s time to prioritize them by importance.

The Delphi technique

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 20, 2020
The Delphi technique is an interactive survey process where a group of experts in a specific field is asked for their subjective opinions on predefined questions. The answers are anonymously shared with the group. Based on the feedback the 2nd round of questions is composed, answered, and anonymously shared with the group again. This feedback loop process takes the group closer to a consensus with each additional round. The Delphi technique differs from Brainstorming in that there is no direct interaction or discussion between group members. However, the group members still get insight into other expert’s views of the subject and can build on it in subsequent rounds of questions. Even though the individual statements are subjective, the outcome of a Delphi method is seen as objective because the views are considered collectively.

S.C.A.M.P.E.R

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Jamila
Jamila Aug 24, 2020
S.C.A.M.P.E.R is a structured creative thinking technique that was developed by Bob Eberle, it is an acronym that helps you brainstorm great ideas by looking at the idea from different directions. • Substitute – Could we substitute something in this idea to make it better? • Combine – Could this idea be made better by combining it with another idea? • Adapt – In what way could this be adapted for another context? • Modify – What modifications could make this idea more valuable? • Put to another use – Could this idea be applied to other things? • Eliminate – What isn’t necessary for the idea, what could be removed? • Reverse – Could the idea be restructured to make it more effective? Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8w0rJhztJ4

Brainstorming with the starbursting technique!

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Jamila
Jamila Aug 24, 2020
Starbursting is a brainstorming technique that relies on asking important questions rather than answering these questions. How you do starbursting: 1. First, you draw a large star with 6 points, and in the middle of the star, you write the problem/challenge/idea you are thinking of. 2. Then at each point of the star, you write one of these words “who”, “why”, “how”, “what”, “where”, and “when” 3. Then you go around the star to each word and try to think of as many questions relating to your problem as you possibly can. An example of the starbursting technique can be seen in the following link: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_91.htm

Medici Effect Storming

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 06, 2020
The phrase "the Medici effect" was used by Frans Johansson to explain that innovation comes from diverse cultures when they intersect. Ideas from one field can help solve problems from another. He recommends including diverse people in a team to drive innovation. This, in itself, is one way to brainstorm - including people from diverse backgrounds. This is the basis of the idea - "Unrelated expertise exchange network".

The Medici effect uses low associative barriers. This enables you to spontaneously connect disparate concepts, ideas, ingredients, and styles. The human brain quickly makes a number of associations. For example, phrases like "sustainable development", "forestation", and "pollution" are directly associated with the environment. These associations happen unconsciously on the basis of personal reference frameworks. Everyone’s brain will follow the simplest path of the previous associations that have been made. When you think of potatoes, a farmer remembers growing the biggest potato last season while a kid remembers french fries that he ate for lunch. Although such associations have benefits, they lead the human brain to the nearest rabbit hole. They create barriers to alternative ways of thinking and creativity.

The Medici effect provides a broader thinking range. People from different disciplines increase the range of thought (ways to find solutions).

References:
  1. https://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/10-longtime-brainstorming-techniques-that-still-work.html
  2. https://www.toolshero.com/creativity/medici-effect/

Figuring Storming

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 25, 2020
When faced with a problem, step in someone else’s shoes and think. Think how your parents or your boss might solve this problem. Sometimes it is advantageous to think about other famous personalities, whom you have interacted with or at least know how they think. For example, what would Elon Musk do? What would the leader of your nation do to solve this problem? This gives you a different perspective. Also, when you brainstorm for solutions that concern the possible actions of a third party, you can think of ideas that are not limited to the current participants. Reference: https://www.wrike.com/blog/techniques-effective-brainstorming/#:~:text=With%20figuring%20storming%2C%20you%20aim,the%20possibilities%20from%20fresh%20ideas.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni9 months ago
Another slight modification to "figuring storming" is "Superstorming". If you had superpowers, how would you then approach the problem? Turning into a superhero might make you take a more blunt and aggressive approach. Having the X-ray vision of Superman could help with transparency issues. Each superpower may open a new way to overcome the challenge.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni9 months ago
In some cases, you don't necessarily have to think of yourself as an entirely different person. Try imagining that one single attribute of yours is different - your race, gender, or even weight. Does that make a difference in how you see the challenge? Every time you change an attribute, your subconscious opens a new door that might lead to your answer. Reference: https://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/10-longtime-brainstorming-techniques-that-still-work.html

Stepladder technique

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Aug 25, 2020
This brainstorming technique ensures contributions from every member in the team individually before being influenced by ideas from others. The problem is explained to the team initially. Everyone then leaves the room except two members. These two members then brainstorm for solutions/ ideas. Then, a third member enters the discussion. He/ she will contribute his/ her ideas first and the three of them will discuss. This cycle is repeated until all the members of the team enter the discussion and share their ideas. This technique, therefore, encourages both individual and group participation. Reference: https://www.wrike.com/blog/techniques-effective-brainstorming/#:~:text=With%20figuring%20storming%2C%20you%20aim,the%20possibilities%20from%20fresh%20ideas.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic10 months ago
Would love to try this out if we weren't fully remote:)

Socratic method

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Anja M
Anja M Sep 06, 2020
Old but gold. It is a form of a dialogue basically working on a principle of hypotheses elimination in order to establish the ones which are consistent as general truths and/or the other sets of beliefs we hold. It is performed through questions and answers, in the original form like this: 1. Socrates' interlocutor asserts a thesis, for example "Courage is endurance of the soul". 2. Socrates decides whether the thesis is false and targets for refutation. 3. Socrates secures his interlocutor's agreement to further premises, for example "Courage is a fine thing" and "Ignorant endurance is not a fine thing". 4. Socrates then argues, and the interlocutor agrees, these further premises imply the contrary of the original thesis; in this case, it leads to: "courage is not endurance of the soul". Socrates then claims he has shown his interlocutor's thesis is false and its negation is true. (Wiki) Every iteration of Q&A leads to a new level of a more refined investigation. This method is used not only traditionally in philosophy, but also in some variations of psychotherapy in order to bring clarification of thoughts and emotions. Also, it lives to see variations of its primary form, and can be successfully used in class or when a teacher wants to cover many subtopics for a class, or whenever we want to facilitate learning of a more complex topic. Some of the forms are: 1. Fishbowl - Students are arranged in inner and outer circles. Inner circle discusses the main idea, while the outer observes their discussion, taking notes and further developing some ideas the inner circles develops during the talk. Later on, they all share their insights, taking constructive criticism from their peers. 2. Triad - There is one student upfront, while the two sit behind his/her back. The upfront one does the talking, while the latter two are there for the consultation. The moderator can occasionally pause a conversation in order for the question to be polished further before the main discussion continues. In that case the triad talks among themselves. 3. Simultaneous seminars - These are often recommended for the more experienced, who generally need little guidance with the topic. Students are distributed in small groups, sitting further away from each other if possible, while discussing the topic in a Socratic manner. This is usually done if there are many texts or sub-topics around one main topic, or if we want to achieve more detailed brainstorming and develop different views upon the same topic, and then in the end compare our findings.

Blind writing

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 06, 2020
Forcing yourself to simply pen down your thoughts for some time will open up new ideas. The only rule is to keep writing, even if you have nothing to write about and you are jotting down, "I don't know what to write." You will eventually come up with something.

Reference: https://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/10-longtime-brainstorming-techniques-that-still-work.html

The method of prolongation

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Jan 21, 2021
The idea behind this is that if you are given enough resources to solve a problem, it can be solved.

Isolation method

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Jan 21, 2021
Isolate the specific problem from the clutter and remove the background noise. Once the problem is solved in isolation, add one aspect from the original setting. Once you can solve that, start adding the other aspects from the original setting and make the situation complex. By gradually increasing the complexity, more feasible and better solutions are obtained.

Extreme case method

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Jan 21, 2021
Think about the extremes that can happen. Solve for the extremes and any other possible issue in between gets solved automatically.

The dichotomy method

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Jan 21, 2021
Break down the problem into a series of ‘Yes' and 'No’ answer-type questions. Answer each question separately and then combine the answers.

Brainstorming matrix

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Jan 21, 2021
This method helps you find solutions to identified challenges. Identify the different challenges that your organization faces. It is helpful to construct "How can we..." type of questions. Write a challenge at the centre of each 3*3 brainstorming matrix, and distribute these challenge sheets to your team. The team members should spend some time thinking over a solution to the challenge they have received and write it down in one of the empty boxes of the matrix. After some pre-specified time, the sheets are passed around and every team member gets a chance to look at each of the challenge sheets. The next person then adds their perspective and tries to improve the solution proposed by the previous team member. Towards the end, the ideas might develop into concrete solutions to the challenges faced.

[1]https://danskdesigncenter.dk/en/brainstorm-matrix

The “Katta” model

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Sep 08, 2020
The “Katta” model is developed by Prof. Milind Watve. A katta in Marathi (the regional Indian language) means a place where people can meet, ask questions, and exchange ideas. A meeting is decided and invites are sent to people who have shown interest. These meetings are held regularly (usually once a week). The important thing is that the meeting has no agenda. The sessions usually start by picking up from the earlier session. Participants add their views and the discussion continues. Since the discussion has no boundary, the topic of discussion spans across multiple fields. This provides newer dimensions to look at a particular topic. Participants ask questions pertaining to the topic at hand. Many questions arise and quickly subside. However, some questions seem to interest more participants and are investigated using scientific tools. This is essentially a brainstorming technique. However, the important thing here is to have no agenda. A discussion that is bounded by topic and expertise will not thrive using this brainstorming technique. Reference: https://www.ibiology.org/science-and-society/katta-model/

Teleporting storming

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 06, 2020
When stuck, "imagine that you were in a different place or a different time. Would you approach it differently if you were dealing with it at your favorite vacation spot rather than your cubicle? What if this was 10 years ago and you had a penchant for taking a lot more risk? Imagine it from an alternate perspective and the path forward may become more clear."

Reference: https://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/10-longtime-brainstorming-techniques-that-still-work.html

Identify the gap

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 06, 2020
Sometimes, the actual problem you're struggling with is a gap. You know where you are and where you want to get, and you need to fill the gap between the two. In this case, pen down the necessary steps and the different ways to get to the desired place (a to-do list).

Reference: https://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/10-longtime-brainstorming-techniques-that-still-work.html

Matrix-storming - A de novo creativity method

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Jan 21, 2021
This method has been explained by Richard Stephenson here. Rather than solving a pre-specified problem, this method helps you create a product and then think of ways in which it can be made useful.

As an example, let's look at household items and try to brainstorm new products. Make a table containing 4 columns and 7 rows. Think of 28 different household items and write them down, each in a separate box in the table. Randomly pick 3 different boxes using the column and row numbers just like in Microsoft Excel (For example, A4, B2, and E3). This is a method of blinding so that you do not look at the items and select then non-randomly. Now combine the items (or their features) in these 3 boxes and think of a novel product. You can repeat this exercise multiple times to extract combinations of items and try to make them useful.

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General comments

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic10 months ago
A year ago I set out to write an article about brainstorming but never finished it. I had all these paragraphs ready. Your session came handy to put them to good use:)