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Ideas for Brainstorming


I am looking to facilitate some brainstorming sessions and would like to try something different from our usual flip chart and post it methods. Could anyone help me out with something a little less conventional in idea generation?

Rick Weatherill

16 Responses

  1. More information Rick?
    Hi Rick, I love working in the field of ‘idea generation’, but I need to know what sort of area, or domain of learning you are trying to work with, in order to be of any direct help. Can you advise?

  2. Try Ygnius
    You should try Ygnius which is computer managed brainstorming and is very easy to use.
    There are many added advantages to this such as Microsoft word printouts or PowerPoint presentations.
    My groups respond very well to this. Look at

  3. Washing line and pegs!
    I use a washing line (or very thick twine), clothes pegs and coloured cards. I string the twine or line across the room. I then get the group to brainstorm onto coloured cards and then get the group to peg them to the line. They can then move the cards around to cluster, remove duplicates,etc. You can also peg downwards by clipping one card to another. I also use red, orange and green cards when working with groups who want to examine what they are currently doing and want to continue( green), what needs to potentially change (orange) and what needs definitely to change( red). It’s a lot of fun to use and cheap!!!

  4. Try Whack Pack
    Hi Rick, Here are a couple of sources I’ve come across.
    Try Roger von Oech’s Creative Whack Pack – a sort of combined Random Word & Provocation tool. It’s an illustrated deck of 64 creative thinking strategies -see the reviews on for more details.
    Also take a look at the creativity software (free downloads) from Creativity Unleashed Limited at
    For a challenging read try Edward de Bono’s book Serious Creativity.
    The options are endless!

  5. Brainstorming/idea generation
    Try Metaplan – large pinboards, cards of different shapes sizes and colours, and large sheets of paper. I can help with approaches or you can try to see the techniques.

  6. What is it Like?

    One theory of why brainstorming is *relatively* unsuccessful is because we’re still calling a paper clip a paper clip, and only then trying to think of alternative uses. In other words, all ideas are overlaid with the awareness that we started out with a paper clip.

    Alternative: Think up a series of questions that are as unlike the thing under discussion as possible, for instance:

    How is this (DON’T say what “this” is after the introduction) like:

    – A wedding
    – The last five feet of Mount Everest
    – A Lamborghini Testosterone [sic]
    – etc.

    and so on.

    As per regular brainstorming, no judgements on the approprietness of people’s answers.

    Once you’ve got a good selection of answers – on a flip chart, washing line, or whatever – get people to start thinking about what new approaches to the situation these relationships suggest (still freewheeling).

    Only then do you consider the practicalities of the ideas on offer.

    Lots of colours and shapes, as suggested by Mike W. are also good ways of stimulating the brain.

  7. Ideas for brainstorming
    Brainstorming is – or should be – disciplined first-stage thinking: the kind of thinking we do when we are looking at reality. (Stage two thinking is what we do when we decide what to do about it.) So, before you use any idea generation techniques, you need to establish that basic discipline.

    1. Identify a ‘client’: the person who owns the problem (or challenge!). They define the problem and decide what ideas to take forward. Others in the group become ‘creative consultants’. Problems without owners tend to become problems without solutions.

    2. Decide whether this is indeed a problem or a challenge. If you are trying to put something right, brainstorming may not be suitable. If you want to generate possibilities, couch the issue as a phrase beginning ‘How to’.

    3.Spend time exploring the ‘How to’: get the group to generate new ‘How to’ statements and ask the ‘client’ to pick the one that excites them the most. This increases the client’s ownership.

    4.Now you can do all the metaphorical stuff!

  8. PinBoarding?
    Like Mike I would recommend using PinBoarding.

    If you’d like to find out more, drop me an email, -Celia

  9. Mind Mapping

    I am surprised noone has mentioned mind mapping, it is one of the best processes for engaging the creative mind, I use it with groups extensivley for dynamic and dramatic results. Mindjet software has a brainstorm tool which is great if someone can type fast enough – if you have a projector it can be screened at the same time! Live brainstorm…
    drop a line if you need any more.


    Gary R Hosey
    High Force Training

  10. rotating to music
    I’ve found using music to be very useful – particularly with young people, but also adults. The idea is that you split the group into 3 or 4, have a flipsheet with 3/4 different headings of whatever you want to brainstorm. Give each group a sheet and place them around the room. They start brainstorming in their groups when the music starts and when it stops they move round to the next sheet, then the next, etc, until each group has contributed to each sheet. I tend to only give 2 mins or so before moving them on, but obviously it depends. What music you choose depends on your group, but I;ve found music without words best, either dancey or classical, so it’s uplifting and energising. Having the music is useful in giving the groups privacy – reducing any initial awkward silence, whilst also easily directing them round the room. You end up with a great deal of info in about 10 mins, which you can discuss further, pull out relevant issues as you would with any usual brainstorming exercise.

    If you want to contact me about this please feel free. I work as a trainer at fpa (Family Planning Association) and also produce training resources and info leaflets.

    Good luck!


  11. If all else fails….
    There are some great answers and links below which will cover most situations. Depending on what it is being considered, I also sometimes approach brainstorming in a completely different way by using one of the following if absolutely stuck:
    1. Journalism Questions ask who, what, where, when, how and why about your topic.
    2. The Cubing Method asks you to describe, compare, associate, analyze, apply and argue for or against your topic.
    3. Freewriting – allows you to come up with ideas by writing whatever pops into your mind for a predetermined amount of time. Idea is that you can’t stop writing, even if you write “I can’t think of anything” – invariably something useful comes out.

  12. Thinkpak
    Try Thinkpak, a brainstorming card deck by Michael Michalko author of Thinkertoys.(Try Amazon)

  13. Try reversals
    Variety is absolutely key. Simply reversing the challenge (how to make it worse) and generating ideas for the reversed challenge is a great way of freeing up thinking before turning your attention to the original challenge.
    Several people have already mentioned Mind Mapping which I would also heartily endorse, both on white boards or using one of the Mind Mapping software packages.

  14. Brainstorming Ideas
    1. Have small groups list common, obvious assumptions; reverse them, then use reversals to trigger ideas.

    2. I have a poster of 476 unrelated stimulus words. You also can use magazine and dictionaries.

    3. Use unrelated pictures, describe stimuli seen

    4. Have each participant write down one idea on a piece of paper, tape it to their backs, and then have them mingle and use other’s ideas as stimuli. I call this, “The Shirt Off Your Back.”

    5. Have all participants make paper airplanes out of different shades of brightly-coloured paper, write down an idea on one wing, throw them on command at the same time, retrieve one, use the idea as a stimulus, write down a new one on the other wing, and throw again on command. I’ve found this also to be a very popular energizer for kicking off a session or late in the day.

  15. Brainstorming variety
    I have used occasionally 6″ by 4″ ‘filing cards’, giving one to each person. Giving them a predetermined time limit (short duration), to write their idea on the card and pass it left, receiving one from their right on which they write another idea – and so on.

    Gets quantity – not necessarily quality, and very useful if one, or a group are responsible for going away and collating / evaluating etc as the responses are in an easily managed format.

    Also good if you have either a ‘shy’group or one where there are dominant individuals.

    Next time I might try it combined with the music suggested earlier.


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