12 Tips To Jumpstart Your Next Brainstorming Session

Try these tactics next time your team needs a burst of creative energy.
September 12, 2011

Have you ever had a brainstorming session that got stuck in low gear? We’ve all been there. Next time your team needs a jolt of energy, try one of these 12 tactics to stir things up.

1. Opposite day

Try solving the opposite problem. For instance, if you’re trying to get more customers, brainstorm ideas for getting fewer customers or actively driving them away.

2. Visual brainstorming

Pen on whiteboard gets a little old. Try opening up creativity by playing with objects. You could use everything from Lego blocks and pipe cleaners to construction paper and dolls to have your team solve problems. Working without words opens up new areas of the mind.

3. “Pictionary”

Taking a cue from that favorite board game, have people draw their ideas instead of verbalizing them. Just like with regular brainstorming, keep it quick so your team doesn’t have time to agonize about their artistic ability (or lack thereof).

4. Copycat

There’s nothing wrong with copying when you’re using it to brainstorm. Think of a successful business, service or product in a different industry from your own and brainstorm how you could copy the idea in your business. (Think of all the businesses out there that are now “Netflix for (insert rental idea here).”)

5. Roleplaying

Have people act out brainstorming ideas. For instance, if you’re mulling how to solve a customer service problem, have people play the parts of customers and employees.

6. Change perspectives

Imagine being someone else—such as how your biggest competitor would think about the problem or a completely unrelated industry would think about the problem. How would a 5-year-old solve your problem? What would Picasso do?

7. Starbursting

This technique expands on the answers or ideas you come up with in your brainstorming session by peppering them with questions. If you get the idea to target your product to seniors, for instance, you could ask “Why seniors?” and keep drilling down. The answers to the succeeding questions can lead you in new and interesting directions—you may just end up targeting your product to preschoolers in the end!

8. Challenging assumptions

Make lists of assumptions you have about the problem you’re facing. Challenge them: If you’re assuming your product has to be low priced for people to buy it, why? What if it were high-priced instead? Try going the opposite direction of your assumptions and see where that takes you.

9. Ideal scenario

What if you had all the resources in the world available to your team? If time, money and staff were unlimited, imagine what you could do. This is a good starting point for a brainstorming session.

10. Random

Pick a random word (a noun works best) that’s not associated with your industry. Grab a dictionary, open it at will, and see where your finger lands, or use this Random Word Generator.

11. Write it down

If a few people tend to dominate your brainstorming sessions, this technique can get input from those who might feel shy about speaking up. Pass out slips of paper and have people write down their ideas, solutions, etc. Setting a time limit and keeping the slips anonymous can help spur staff to write without thinking too much about what others will think of their ideas.

12. Pass it on

Pose a question on one sheet of paper, give everyone 30 seconds to write one idea, and then have them pass it to the next person to write an idea. Seeing each other’s ideas helps generate new and better ones.

What ideas do you use to spur creativity in your team?