What are the best brainstorming methods for creative thinking?

Brainstorming as a method or technique to find creative and innovative ideas might be simple, but sometimes the depth and breadth of approaches and ways to brainstorm can seem overwhelming. Not to mentions some of the names used for many methods! With titles like 1-2-4 All and Crazy 8, you can be forgiven for not necessarily knowing where to start. And you need to make sure you and your teams are brainstorming using the most creative and efficient methods possible for the task, not wasting your time using the wrong approach.

It can take a while to set up a brainstorming session if you are working as a team. But that doesn’t need to be the case. If you are using the right techniques, methods, and resources you can be more efficient. Readymade templates are often the answer to saving time and getting the most out of your teams. They facilitate more efficient and effective ways of working and can ensure you are approaching your problem in the best way possible.

We’ll take a look at why setting up a brainstorming session can be challenging, and we will find ways to ensure you are saving your team time rather than giving them more to do. We’ll also take a tour around five of the best brainstorming methods for the different approaches you might need to take with your teams. Make sure you are making your workshops count and improving your teamwork with the most efficient brainstorming methods and templates available.

1-2-4 All, Round Robin, Crazy 8, Creative Matrix and Affinity Clustering: all of these might just sound like a random collection of strange words, but we will explain all!

Making your brainstorming sessions more creative and efficient

If you and your teams are looking to run creative and efficient brainstorming sessions, it can sometimes be challenging. You might need to arrange and implement such a session in short space of time, for example. You might also have other specific issues that you are dealing with. 

Your team sizes might seem impossible to cope with, or perhaps you need varied activities to suit different scenarios. Help is at hand, however. You can save time while offering a superior experience: as long as you have the right information and collaborative tools to hand.

When is it time consuming to set up a brainstorming session?

There are various things that need to be done for a brainstorming session to be effective. You need to ensure that all these things are in place before you start, or you can risk wasting the team’s time, or worse, sending them down the wrong path. 

While setting up a brainstorming session can require a significant investment of time, the benefits of a well-organized and productive session should outweigh the initial effort. Minimizing this effort as much as possible without compromising the outcome will mean your teams are more efficient and can use their additional time for more productive purposes. 

The collaborative and creative outcomes generated by a successful brainstorming session should lead to growth and improvement.

What do you need to consider when organizing an effective brainstorming session?

Your participants 

It can take time to identify and gather the right participants for the session you need to run. You need to involve individuals who have relevant knowledge and expertise, but you also need diverse perspectives. Making sure you have included all the necessary people you will need for a meaningful brainstorming process is the first step and it would be unwise to rush this process.

The logistics

Once you know who you need on board for your brainstorming session, you will need to find a time. Coordinating the schedules of all participants can be challenging, especially if they have conflicting commitments or work remotely and/or in different time zones. 

Finding a mutually convenient time and location for everyone can require careful planning and coordination. Ensuring you have the right online tools to help you is key. Even if you intend to run your brainstorming session in person, it is wise to use a virtual whiteboard for the exercise, rather than a traditional one. You will have all the extra functionalities an online whiteboard offers, as well as the ability to save everything you have done.

Your problem statement 

Crafting an effective problem statement or question that encapsulates the scope and purpose of the brainstorming session will take careful consideration. It needs to be concise and structured enough to give guidance and create solutions that address the actual problem, while staying broad enough to stimulate creative thinking and generate ideas that will be valuable.

Background information 

You may have a problem or topic that requires relevant background information to be distributed to your participants. They may need help to understand the context of your session so that they can make informed contributions. Collecting and organizing this information can be time-consuming.

The environment 

Creating an environment that is conducive to the brainstorming process is essential. This can involve arranging a suitable physical space – perhaps in your usual workspace - or making sure that the time is blocked and all the information necessary to access an online meeting or workshop is sent out. 

Any collaborative tools that will be used should be intuitive to use and easily accessible. You will also need to ensure your session will have a relaxed and non-judgmental atmosphere so that participants can feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

Facilitation and moderation 

If you have the right resources, you can enhance the effectiveness of a brainstorming session. And designating a member of the team who will guide the process well, manage people’s time efficiently, and encourage active participation is crucial. It can sometimes be time consuming to find an appropriate facilitator, but make sure they have all the necessary information and provide any relevant training.

5 proven brainstorming methods for different ways of working

1-2-4 All

This brainstorming method is part of a set of tools called the ‘Liberating Structures’. The 1-2-4 All method focuses on both individual and collective intelligence. To start with it, everyone involved is given time to consider the question individually – this equates to the ‘1’: one person. This allows those who might be more reticent to speak or share their ideas to feel they are contributing and will be heard. And everyone gets to think independently without having their thoughts influenced by others.

After the initial solo session people are put together in pairs (two people or ‘2’). Then two pairs get together (four people or ‘4’). Then the whole group comes together (‘all’), where the best ideas that have been agreed throughout the process between the groups are presented.

Round Robin

A round robin brainstorming session is a team problem-solving method that is based on putting forward ideas for constructive feedback. It is an iterative process and ideas shared should be developed and fine-tuned, until the team can find a consensus on a final concept.

Crazy 8

It might be called ‘crazy’, but it’s really quite a sensible brainstorming method! It is a fast-paced and time-constrained technique that can be used to generate a large quantity of ideas in a short amount of time. It is often used in the design thinking process and in companies that support agile work environments. The method involves setting a strict time limit of eight minutes. Participants are then challenged to come up with eight ideas within that time, hence the name.

Creative Matrix

If you are looking for a brainstorming method that will help you understand how you can combine seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts, the Creative Matrix is ideal. Also known as the Idea Matrix or Idea Grid, it is a technique that organizes and combines different elements or variables to generate new ideas. It provides a structured framework for exploring various possibilities and combinations.

You create a grid with two or more axes that represent different variables or dimensions that are related to the brainstorming topic. These variables can be anything relevant to the problem or idea generation. 

The process helps to break linear thinking patterns and should encourage participants to consider combinations and variations they may not have considered otherwise. It helps to promote creativity as it allows your teams to systematically explore different options and any potential synergies. 

It is a visual management technique that makes ideas easier to evaluate so that the most promising concepts become more obvious.

Affinity Clustering

The Affinity Clustering brainstorming method helps to organize and categorize the ideas or information generated during a brainstorming session. It helps to identify common themes, patterns, or relationships among the ideas that have been put forward. It encourages collaboration and teamwork and facilitates decision-making or highlights where further exploration might be required.

How can readymade templates of proven methods for brainstorming save time?

Using readymade templates of proven brainstorming methods can help your teams save time in several ways:

Eliminate the need to create a structure from scratch 

It can be difficult and time consuming to develop a structure from scratch.

Give structure and guidance 

Templates provide a predefined structure and framework for your brainstorming sessions. They outline the steps, techniques, and prompts to follow, which help to ensure your sessions progress smoothly and in a timely manner. They can be used repeatedly to allow a consistent approach and experience.

Give new prompts for idea generation 

Specific prompts or questions designed to stimulate idea generation are included. This can help participants think more creatively and systematically and can also reduce the amount of time spent on getting started.

Offer time management options 

Templates will tend to include suggested time allocations for each stage of your chosen brainstorming process. This will help keep your sessions on track while also ensuring that sufficient time is devoted to idea generation, evaluation, and selection. This can help prevent your brainstorming sessions becoming overly time-consuming or unproductive.

Provide visual aids and other resources 

Many brainstorming templates come with visual aids, such as mind maps, flowcharts, or concept diagrams. Visual representations can facilitate idea organization, exploration, and connections, and this can make the brainstorming process more efficient and effective.

Provide best practices and proven methods 

Templates will incorporate best practices and proven methods for brainstorming based on research and extensive experience. They are designed to maximize creativity and idea generation. By using established techniques, you save time and effort trying to create your own.

Improve collaboration and teamwork 

As well as the brainstorming process itself aiding collaboration and teamwork, templates can include sections for documenting ideas, assigning tasks, and tracking progress. This can also lead to improved teamwork and collaboration as readymade templates can help save time, reduce confusion, and ensure everyone is on the same page.

How do you use readymade templates for brainstorming?

Online whiteboards are the tool of choice for effective and efficient brainstorming. Virtual whiteboards offer even more than traditional ones – not least because you can use readymade templates with them. Online whiteboards enable easier collaboration and can help teams work better and more efficiently together

This is because visual representations can help people understand complex ideas more easily, as well as making it simpler to see connections and opportunities. They offer flexibility, whether your teams are working in the same workspace or are based remotely. 

These collaborative tools also offer a way to keep track of any sessions and changes, and all the information can be kept in one place as well as shared with team members as necessary. They leverage technology to overcome geographical limitations, streamline the process, and maximize the benefits of collective ideation.

The best readymade templates for your brainstorming sessions

We have a dedicated virtual whiteboard that offers all the functionality you could need for productive, effective, and efficient brainstorming sessions. With readymade templates for numerous brainstorming techniques, you are never short of a way to save time and effort or improve teamwork and collaboration. Why not check out our resources to see how we can help your teams?

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