In the last article, I wrote about how adding guidelines can improve the process of brainstorming, however, there are many different types of brainstorming. Let’s explore six popular ways to spark creativity on your team.

1. Brain Writing. Start by giving people time to think and work alone by writing down all of their ideas.  Then come together as a group and each person shares one idea at a time. When you separate the individual idea generation stage from the group discussion phrase, it allows for many more initial possibilities. You can then narrow down your selections by detecting the overlapping themes and building on these smaller and more concentrated concepts in greater detail.

2. 6-3-5 method. In this approach developed by Bernd Rohrbach in the 60s, six people sit around a table and pass their three ideas to the person on the right who builds on them.  This passing is done five times (or more) until everybody has had time to add to each idea.  They then get together and evaluate and search for commonalities.  This method is successful because it slows down the creative process since it gives everybody in the room adequate time to generate and strengthen before moving on to the evaluation phase.  It also prevents those who want to rush into solution mode because they are uncomfortable with uncertainty.

3. Round Robin Brainstorming. After each person has prepared something to share, the facilitator will go around the table requesting one idea from each person.  The job of the facilitator is to ensure an orderly process so everybody has a chance to talk and nobody evaluates the ideas until all have the opportunity to share.  This approach can be useful when team members have a tendency to stay quiet.  It also provides additional control for those who want to start analyzing the first few ideas before seeing the whole menu presented, they will have to wait until everybody has offered something.

4. Nominal Group Technique. Is a structured method for group brainstorming that can illicit creative answers to specific problems. Team members begin by writing down their ideas, then selecting which ones they feel are best. Once they are ready, everyone presents their favorite idea persuasively and then discussed and evaluated thoroughly. The group can take a simple vote for the ideas that they want to prioritize to further develop.

5. Sentence Stems. These include a series of prompts to get the discussion started.  For example, “we can cut our costs 10% by…?”  “We can become #1 in our space by…?”  Researchers at Google, Facebook, and IDEO have come up with a powerful three-word sentence starter – “How Might We…?” Each word is deliberately chosen, the HOW encourages detailed description, the MIGHT allows for freedom and creativity and the WE invites anybody to participate.  According to Duane Bray, the Head of Talent at IDEO, “How Might We” questions are so effective because they “allow clients to mentally reset and reframe a problem as an opportunity.”

6. Sketch Storming. This is the combination of drawing and writing to visually present your ideas.   Some concepts can be too abstract and difficult to describe in words so using diagrams and drawings can be helpful.  The depictions may even illicit multiple interpretations and fun, creative offshoots.

Whichever method you choose, the key is creating an environment of psychological safety so people can be encouraged to take risks in their thinking and silliness. You can choose to start with a fun warmup game.  Management Professor Leigh Thompson conducted a study on this subject and found that groups who shared funny or embarrassing stories about themselves came up with 26% more ideas and were 15% more creative than the groups who did not.

The best creative groups are not just the sum of their parts, but the totality of their experiences. When you can effectively implement methods that elicit people’s best, ideas blossom. 

Quote of the Day: “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainty” -Erich Fromm

Q: What’s your favorite brainstorming technique? Comment and share below, we would be overjoyed to hear from you!

As a Leadership Development & Executive Coach, I work with teams to facilitate processes for brainstorming & creativity. Contact me to learn more.

Which brainstorming methods yield the greatest results?