5 Ways Creative Teams Brainstorm
Everybody brainstorms. From figuring out what to make for dinner to deciding where to go on vacation to navigating difficult tasks at work, the brainstorming process is vital to problem-solving and creativity. And though some situations require deeper, more involved thought, there are many different brainstorming tools you can implement to come up with innovative solutions and answers, regardless of the subject area. Below, we outline five helpful exercises creative teams use to get the most out of brainstorming sessions.1
The stepladder technique is best implemented in group settings to encourage individual participation. It can be difficult for individuals to feel heard when it comes to group decision-making, which is why it’s important to have a process in place that promotes the contributions of each team member. During a stepladder activity, all team members work to solve the same problem. However, everyone in the group is initially asked to leave the room to think independently—except for two people who stay in the room to discuss together. After a short time, a person from the group enters the room to join in sharing their ideas with the two people who stayed behind. Every few minutes, a person from the group comes back into the room to share their thoughts and collaborate. This continues until the last team member enters—ensuring all voices are heard before moving forward to solve the problem at hand.
The concept of brainwriting is rather straightforward. Instead of everyone yelling out their ideas on a subject, participants write down their ideas instead. A direct question about the problem to be solved is asked, team members take a few minutes to write their ideas on an index card, and then that index card is passed to another person in the group. Each time an index card is passed, the idea written down is elaborated on by the team member who received it. This continues until each team member has expanded on the ideas of everyone in the group. Not only does this encourage active participation, but it also requires individuals to think deeply about the ideas posed by others.
Considered an unorthodox approach to problem-solving, reverse brainstorming taps into potential solutions that ordinary thinking methods do not achieve. This is because team members do the opposite of the expected process. For example, instead of asking “How can we solve this problem?” the group would ask, “How can we make this problem worse?” In doing this, the team can better understand the worst-case scenarios. The ideas generated about how to make the problem worse are then reversed, too, and solutions for each instance are discussed. The last step is to determine which solution discovered can potentially be used to solve the initial problem.
Using rapid ideation helps ward off one of the major deterrents to creativity: overthinking. A problem and/or question is posed to the team, and then a time limit is set—typically 5 to 45 minutes. During this time, team members write down their ideas pertaining to the topic. Once the time is up, the group discusses the recorded ideas and works to develop a solution. By limiting the amount of time each participant spends thinking individually about the problem, more time can be spent collaborating and figuring out a collective solution.
“What If” Brainstorming
This brainstorming tactic helps transform average ideas into great ones—and in a unique, fun way. Each group member approaches the problem needing to be solved with a “what if” question.2 Say the problem is figuring out how you and your team can promote online graduate degree programs to fellow employees. Each participant would add their “what if” question for the group to then answer. “What if the year was 1994? How would we handle this?” “What if Batman was promoting earning a degree online to the citizens of Gotham? What would that look like?” Questions like these can seem out of left field, but they can ignite creativity and make the brainstorming process both fun and productive for team members.
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