Brainstorming. A brilliantly simple concept for generating new ideas. No wonder it’s the most used ideation technique in a design thinking process. Yet, as simple as it is, not everyone is doing it well. In this blog post, we’ll give you a few simple suggestions for more productive brainstorming. 

Prepare the Brainstorming Environment

Before you start brainstorming, you need to set up some ground rules to be sure that everyone is on the same page. Here are five rules to create positive and motivational brainstorming environment.

1. No Negativity

There is a known brainstorming motto: No idea is a bad idea. Defer your judgment and stop your negativity. There’s no place for criticism in brainstorming sessions. Create a positive environment where all members can freely express their ideas.

2. Encourage Wild Ideas

Remember how every idea is a good idea? Well, then a crazy idea is the best idea! In the brainstorming session, nothing is too crazy or wild. Only after the brainstorming ends you’ll filter out unattainable or impractical ideas. 

3. Build on Other People’s Ideas

This is an advantage of a group brainstorming. By sharing their ideas at loud, other participants can start a real storm of ideas in your mind. You can build up ideas on other people’s proposals or combine two ideas into a third one.

4. Stay focused

No emails, no calls, no interruptions. Call off all the meetings and conferences. Turn off the sound on all devices in the brainstorming session room. You need to be fully focused on the ideas.

5. Everyone Takes Part

The person who guides the brainstorming session has to ensure that each member participates. There’s no hiding behind those loud ones. If there are introverts among brainstorming team, the moderator should engage them.

Brainstorming Rules. Photo Courtesy: Gavin O’Leary

Present the Problem

We have talked about problem definition in our last blog post. To be sure that everyone understands the goal of the brainstorming, you need to clearly define the problem.

Guide the Brainstorming Discussion

The main part of brainstorming is the ideation itself. Unless you want to end up in a chaotic clamor, this stage has to be guided. You can use one or more techniques to help you out through the processHere is a list of some of the most popular brainstorming techniques that will result in brilliant and innovative ideas.

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Reverse Brainstorming

This is a technique where you reverse the whole process of brainstorming. Instead of finding a solution to a problem, you are looking for any possible way of causing the problem. This is the most useful method when you can’t directly find a solution to a problem. The process looks like this:

1. Clearly identify the problem or challenge.

2. Reverse the problem by asking: “How could I cause the problem?”

3. Brainstorm the reverse problem to find reverse problem solutions.

4. Once you have gathered all solutions to a reverse problem, reverse them into solution ideas for the original problem.

5. Test these solutions.

Reverse vs Standard Brainstorming
Reverse vs Standard Brainstorming. Photo Courtesy: Eugene Shteyn
The Stepladder Technique

The Stepladder is another great brainstorming technique. This method helps you avoid falling into a trap of groupthink. Groupthink occurs when a group reaches a consensus without thinking critically about the lead idea. The method itself is very simple:

1. Group leader presents the problem to all the members of the group. It is important that he doesn’t direct the group in any way. Leave adequate time for each member to study the problem.

2. Form the initial group of two people who will discuss the problem among themselves.

3. Add a new team member to the group. The new member presents his/her ideas before hearing any previously discussed ideas.

4. Add another team member and repeat the process from the step 3 until there is no team member left to add.

5. Made a final decision after hearing ideas from all team members.

Brainstorming - stepladder
The Stepladder technique. Photo Courtesy: Rebecca David

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Brainwriting is an easy alternative to the classic verbal brainstorming. In the classic version, each participant contributes with only one idea at a time. But, brainwriting allows each member to write down as many ideas as they want at the same time as others.

There is a modern, online version of brainwriting. It is carried out on online whiteboards, instead of their traditional counterparts. In the online brainwriting, every member participates at the same time on the same online board. The big plus of using online whiteboard is the possibility of remote brainstorming. You don’t need to be in the same office or even on the same continent. This is very convenient for international businesses.

Brainwriting vs Brainstorming
Brainwriting vs Brainstorming

Click the interactive online whiteboard below and start your own brainwriting session.

1. Click the tool menu and choose the sticky note tool

2. Invite other team members by clicking the invite/share button and have your creative juices flow.

3. Move sticky note by clicking it and moving it with the four-headed arrow.

4. Add as many sticky notes as you want by double-clicking anywhere on the board.

5. Change the color of the sticky note by clicking the sticky note and color wheel tool.

Crawford’s Slip Writing Approach

Crawford Slip writing is designed to generate ideas from large groups of people. Using this method you’ll be sure that everyone is participating and no one is dominating. The process is simple:

1. Present the problem to the entire group.

2. Hand out the certain amount of “slips” of paper to each participant.

3. Give participants the time to write down ideas. They need to write down each idea on a separate slip.

4. Collect the slips and remove duplicate ideas.

5. Assess the ideas.

Have you tried some other brainstorming method yourself? We want to hear them  – email us at

Author: Dorotea Knezevic

Head of Marketing at AWW. Google certified specialist, content creator and social media enthusiast