Use Brainstorming to Develop Ideas and Find Creative Solutions

Develop Ideas

How often have you used brainstorming to solve a problem? Probably more often, even if you haven't noticed it.

Brainstorming creates a long list of ideas on a topic. Well done, brainstorming can be exciting, energetic, collaborative, and very valuable. But if you take the wrong approach, it's depressing, boring, and often a waste of time.

If you know how to brainstorm well, both in a group and alone, you can get the most out of this opportunity.

What Is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a method of brainstorming that encourages the generation of new, unusual ideas within a group of people.

It was originally developed in 1939 by the American advertising specialist Alex Faickney Osborn. He wanted to create a solution to get away from long-lasting, tiring and creative meetings. He remembered the more than 400 years old Indian creativity technique of Prai-Barshana. From their mantra - using the brain to storm a problem - he derived today's brainstorming. Osborn published the method in his book "Applied Imagination" in 1953. Since then it has been further developed by Charles Hutchison Clark. Brainstorming is now regarded as the classic among creativity methods.

Brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving with lateral thinking. The most important principle for effective brainstorming is: quantity and not quality. There are no bad ideas, just ideas. Especially when you are at the beginning to develop new projects, products or ideas, you need many ideas and a lot of "input". Many of the team members think that they have to filter the statements and this can lead to the loss of valuable ideas or thought-provoking impulses.

Ideas should therefore not be criticized or praised during brainstorming sessions. Assessment and analysis slow down the development of ideas and limit creativity. After the meeting, there is still time to look for further solutions using conventional approaches.

Why Use Brainstorming?

Use brainstorming to develop new ideas. This form of interchange of ideas provides a free and open environment in which everyone is encouraged to participate. Creative ideas are welcomed and developed, and all participants are encouraged to make their contribution to develop a variety of creative solutions.

The different experiences of the team members are reflected in the proposals and are thus taken into account in problem solving. This increases the inventiveness and creates numerous new combinations of ideas. Even if more solutions and results are found than are actually necessary, this does not matter. Brainstorming is usually followed by a discussion in which the results are filtered. The good ideas are separated from the bad ones and the latter are discarded.

Brainstorming can be effective, but it is important to be open and unprejudiced. If you don't, the people involved will be more likely to keep their mout

Personal, Individual Brainstorming

Of course, the brainstorming method can also be used when you are alone. With a few tricks you can stimulate the brain cells and help your creativity. By the way, the weekend is ideal for this.

To get the best out of it, choose a comfortable place to sit and think. Minimize distractions so you can focus on the problem at hand and use Mindmaps to organize and develop ideas.

Personal, individual brainstorming is most effective when you need to solve a simple problem, create a list of ideas, or focus on a broad topic.

Group Brainstorming

To solve complex problems, group brainstorming is often more effective. You can benefit from the experience and creativity of all team members. If one member doesn't get ahead with an idea, another might help. Group brainstorming allows you to develop ideas in more detail than individual brainstorming.

Another advantage of group brainstorming is that every team member feels they have contributed to the solution. It also reminds you that other team members also have creative ideas.

Through skilful moderation, make sure that unusual suggestions, even if they seem worthless at first glance, are not suppressed by the group. Otherwise the group not only suppresses these ideas but also creativity.

Arrange the group so that participants come from different backgrounds. In this way, you benefit from a wealth of experience that is as broad as possible. A good cross section of experience can make the meeting more creative. But don't make the group too big. As with other types of teamwork, groups of five to seven people are usually the most effective.

A combination of individual and group brainstorming often achieves the best results.

Moderating a Brainstorming Session

Follow the steps below to perform group brainstorming effectively. In this way, employees focus on the topic without interruption and you get a maximum number of developed ideas. It also reinforces the great sense of team bonding that comes with a well-performed brainstorming session!

Step 1: Prepare the Meeting of the Group

First set up a convenient meeting environment for the session. Make sure the room is well lit and that you have all the tools, resources, and refreshments you need.

How much information or preparation does your team need to find solutions to the problem? Remember, preparation is important, but too much can limit or even destroy the freedom of a brainstorming session.

Think about who will attend the meeting. A room full of like-minded people doesn't produce as many creative ideas as a diverse group. Therefore, bring people together from different areas and include people with different thinking styles.

When everyone has gathered, appoint a person to write down the ideas of the session. This person should not necessarily be the team manager - it is difficult to document and contribute at the same time. Notes should be visible to everyone. For example, use a flipchart or whiteboards, or a computer with a data projector.

If people are not used to working together, consider an appropriate warm-up exercise or an icebreaker.

Step 2: Present the Problem to Be Solved

Clearly define the problem to be solved. Define all the criteria you need to meet. Make the objective of the meeting clear, namely to gather as many ideas as possible.

At the beginning of the session, give participants enough time to write down as many of their own ideas as possible (personal brainstorming) before presenting them to the group (group brainstorming). Give everyone a fair opportunity to contribute.

Step 3: Lead the Discussion

Now use the ideas list you created as the basis for a group discussion. The aim is to further develop the ideas and thus generate new ideas. Building on the ideas of others is one of the most valuable aspects of group brainstorming.

Encourage everyone to contribute and develop ideas, even the quietest people. Do not allow criticism of individual ideas.

As a group leader, you should also contribute ideas yourself, but devote your time and energy to supporting the team and leading the discussion. Stick to one conversation at a time and reorient the group when people are distracted.

Remember that everyone has fun brainstorming, even if you are leading the discussion. Welcome creativity and encourage your team to develop as many ideas as possible, whether practical or impractical. Use thought experiments such as provocation or random input to generate some unexpected ideas.

Don't follow a single line of thought for too long. Make sure you generate a good number of different ideas, and examine individual ideas in detail. If a team member needs to "notch" to explore an idea alone, give him or her the freedom to do so.

During a longer session, take sufficient breaks so that people can continue to concentrate.

Increase the Efficiency of Brainstorming

There are methods that can improve the efficiency of group brainstorming.

Brain Writing
The goal is that no one sees the ideas of the other and thus no possibility for criticism or evaluation can take place. The brainstorming leader gives the topic and each team member notes the ideas on his or her own piece of paper.

Round Robin Brainstorming
The participants sit in a large circle and each one expresses his idea one after the other. Afterwards all topics can be discussed and everyone can give his input to the individual ideas, which is also recorded.

Rapid Ideation
The basic idea behind this technique is that people filter less under pressure and "rethink" less. After receiving the important information such as topic, budget, restrictions, deadlines, etc., the team members have a fixed time to write down and collect ideas and thoughts around the topic.

The aim of this brainstorming is to raise and write down as many questions as possible about a topic.

Figuring Storming
By asking questions from the perspective of another person (e.g. customer), the team members put themselves in the position of this person and try to answer the question from this person's perspective.

Stepladder Method
With this method, the group first experiences the topic together. It then separates up to 2 people who begin to develop ideas. The group is then expanded step by step to include one person and their ideas on the topic, until everyone is back in the room and all ideas are exchanged.

Online Brainstorming
Many companies already have collaboration or project tools at their disposal. They can also be used to generate, write down and archive ideas. Ideas can be captured online and then released to the team. Possible tools for brainstorming are collaboration software, project management tools, mindmap software, Word / Excel or specialized brainstorming software.


Brainstorming can help you find creative, even radical, solutions to problems. It can also encourage people to get involved in solutions because they have contributed and played a role in their development.

The best approach combines brainstorming for individuals and groups. There should be no criticism of ideas during the process, and creativity should be encouraged.

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