Harvest Your Ideas: How to Brainstorm Effectively This Fall

Harvest Your Ideas: How to Brainstorm Effectively This Fall

In a world where valuable ideas often vanish into email chains and unproductive bickering, discover the power of structured brainstorming. Delve into the history and core principles of effective brainstorming, and uncover a collection of 15 tried-and-true brainstorming techniques, ranging from brainwriting to SWOT analysis. Quickly tap into your team's boundless creativity and reap the benefits.

You may recognize the importance of gathering your team's insights, but often, these sessions devolve into unproductive bickering among a few, while others remain silent. Even when you manage to unearth valuable ideas, the meeting notes (if they exist) often vanish into the depths of an email chain, never to resurface. It's the antidote to unproductive, disorganized sessions that often lead nowhere. Instead, harness the power of structured brainstorming. 

What is Brainstorming?

Just as the name suggests, brainstorming is a dynamic session for your brain to storm problems with a horde of imaginative solutions. It's a versatile technique used for generating new ideas and sparking creativity. Whether you're working solo or with a group, it's a fantastic tool to consider all sorts of possibilities, encourage free-thinking, collaborate effectively, and avoid hitting creative roadblocks. By gathering diverse perspectives, brainstorming helps churn out a bunch of ideas in no time.

History of Brainstorming

Brainstorming didn't just happen overnight - it was developed in the 1940s by advertising executive Alex Osborn, who sought a structured approach to generating creative ideas. The method initially focused on group collaboration. It encouraged participants to generate ideas freely, without criticism, aiming to supercharge creative thinking and problem-solving. While brainstorming techniques have evolved over time to suit various contexts and objectives, the fundamental principle of fostering open, idea-rich environments has remained the same.

Osborn identified two critical principles for enhancing "ideative efficacy": avoiding criticism and prioritizing quantity over quality. These principles led Osborn to establish the four rules of effective brainstorming: 

  1. Focus on quantity 

    Forget "quality over quantity" – in brainstorming, it's the exact opposite! Rather than striving for one brilliant idea, aim for a multitude of ideas. Not every idea will be a gem, but a seemingly "bad" idea might trigger several excellent ones. Typically, the more ideas you generate, the higher the chances of finding valuable ones to develop further. Think aloud and document discussions!

  2. Withhold criticism
    Negativity has no place in brainstorming. Encourage every idea, as critiquing stifles free thought. It is okay to ask questions or encourage open-ended discussions from multiple angles, but be sure to support colleagues and collaborate positively on ideas.

  3. Welcome unusual ideas
    Remember Alex Osborn's wisdom: "It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one." Embrace every idea, no matter how quirky. Unique and unconventional thoughts, while not always practical, can ignite innovative solutions you might not have considered before.

  4. Combine and improve ideas
    While you can't pursue every idea, they can serve as inspiration. Assess each idea for its feasibility, innovation, and suitability for your objective. No idea is flawless, but improving upon existing ideas often leads to the best solution to your goal or problem.


15 Effective Strategies and Brainstorming Techniques:

  1. Brainwriting

    Individually write down ideas on a sticky note, then pass them on for further input and development. Keeping ideas anonymous prevents idea anchoring, personality bias, and provides a way for introverted teammates to contribute. 

  2. 5 Whys Analysis
    Continuously ask "Why?" to uncover root causes of the problem at hand, often revealing innovative solutions.

  3. Starbursting

    Place your main idea at the center of a star diagram, labeling each point of the star with "What," "When," "Where," "Why," and "How." Develop a series of questions for each point to explore a topic.

  4. Mind Mapping
    Start with a central idea or problem and branch out with related ideas, creating a visual map of thoughts.

  5. Role Storming/Figure Storming
    Participants take on different personas to generate ideas from various perspectives. Figure Storming works best for teams who find themselves coming up with the same ideas for repeating projects.

  6. Gap Filling/Gap Analysis
    Identify discrepancies between current conditions and desired goals, helping to formulate strategies for improvement.

  7. Round Robin Brainstorming
    Each team member suggests an idea in turn. The most important rule for this technique is to treat all ideas with equal weight—give each teammate the same time and attention, and avoid developing on any ideas until everyone has contributed

  8. Rapid Ideation
    A fast-paced approach to generating a large quantity of creative ideas within a short period. By setting a time limit on team members to contribute as many ideas as possible, team managers can maximize productivity and results. 

  9. Reverse Brainstorming

    Consider ways to create the problem. Challenge participants to work backwards to find solutions - certain insights that may have been hard to imagine normally become crystal clear from a new perspective. 

  10. Stepladder Brainstorming
    Pose a question to the entire group and then have almost every group member exit the room, leaving two to share ideas. Introduce participants one at a time to prevent groupthink and allow shy group members to contribute without being intimidated by a room full of people.

  11. SWOT Analysis
    Evaluate Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to the topic to generate ideas for improvement.

  12. Gallery Walk

    Post ideas around the room, and participants move around, adding their thoughts to each idea.

  13. Note and Vote

    Participants write down ideas, and then each person votes for their favorite ideas, narrowing down the options.

  14. SCAMPER Technique

    Stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse. Apply these actions to your idea for variations.

  15. Charette Procedure
    Divide participants into smaller groups to brainstorm ideas, then rotate groups to build on existing ideas.


In conclusion, structured brainstorming is an invaluable tool for idea generation and problem-solving. It promotes creativity, collaboration, and the discovery of innovative solutions. To maximize your brainstorming sessions, consider using M.C. Squares' brainstorming products, such as Reusable Sticky Notes, Collaboration Tablets, Magnetic Tiles, and Frameless Whiteboards, to facilitate organized and productive idea generation.