The beauty of brainstorming – there’s no wrong way to do it!

June 27, 2016 1 Comment

The beauty of brainstorming – there’s no wrong way to do it!

There’s a storm in your brain – a good one – and you can tell there’s all kinds of good ideas brewing up there!  It’s time for a brainstorming session!  Whether it’s just you or a group of bright minds, there are tons of ways to brainstorm.  Below we’ve highlighted some of our favorite ways, but have fun finding whatever works for you!

Focus is your friend

– a long and intense brainstorming session can take a lot of focus on your part to reap the full benefits.  So you’ll need some simple and effective tips and tricks to stay alert, awake and dialed in.

  • If you are prepping for an important brainstorming sessions, for just yourself or in a group, the environment can make a huge difference in your productivity.
  • If you’re mid-way through an intense thought session, you need some quick tips to finish strong and stay tuned in.
    • Suggest that the group takes a quick five minute break and then reconvenes for a brief refresh.
    • Grab a glass of cold water or unsweetened iced tea for a healthy and hydrating perk.
    • Restate the group’s goals for brainstorming and make sure they’re written front and center for everyone in the room.  If the conversation veers off track due to tired minds and lack of concentration, pull the conversation back to one of your goals and continue to brainstorm until you’ve addressed each one.     

    Take a Break – or two or three

    The exact timeframe of a break during a brainstorming session will vary depending on the group or individuals who are engaged in the freewheeling thinking, but no matter what, ALWAYS set a time limit, and make it visible to all on a ticking timer or regular reminders of remaining time left to instill a little urgency to stay on track, without adding too much pressure.  If your idea sharing session appears that it could turn into a long one, schedule breaks for everyone to take a step back from the process, head outside for some sun and air, use the restroom, etc.  The average person’s attention span ranges from 5-20 minutes maximum when focusing on one topic, although we can choose to refocus on the same topic multiple times.  Keep those timeframes in mind and take breaks accordingly for yourself or your crew.  

    AM or PM brainstorm?

    this infographic on puts a whole new spin on the terms “early bird” and “night owl,” and when each type of person is most creative.  According to this information, those that consider themselves a morning person, may actually be most creative at night and vice versa.  And the reason might surprise you, though it makes sense:  when you’re tired or more relaxed your focus broadens and you are able to be more open and creative.  When you are focused during your conceived “prime time,” you are zoned in on a few specific tasks, which will allow less room and time for creativity.  Even though it might feel counterintuitive try some brainstorming in the evening if you’re a morning person and see what happens!

    Have you noticed that your best ideas sometimes pop-up during your morning shower or on your daily commute to or from work?  According to, these times of “optimal distraction and dopamine producing activities” may set the perfect stage for idea cultivation and creative thinking.  Other examples of these activities are running or working out, dreaming and cooking.  As you go about your normal days and activities, maybe some of the ones just listed, take notice of any bright ideas that may come to mind.   

    Your brain is muscle, so work it!

    Just like physical exercise primes the body for optimal health, mental exercises help bring out the best in brainstorming sessions.  Most of us would like to believe that good ideas just happen almost magically – and sometimes they do.  But more often than not, we need a little nudge or two in the right direction, or some quick exercises that get our mental power wheels turning in the right direction.  Try these brainstorming exercises and let us know in the comments which ones worked for you!

    • Try a pre-brainstorm – give all participants time to brainstorm individually before the group session to jot down their personal ideas before they might become biased by the group setting.  Ask everyone to bring their ideas to the meeting and jump right in with each person’s musings, one by one.  This is a great exercise to hold an effective brainstorming meeting while also getting participants excited to share their ideas right off the bat.
    • Quantity, not quality – to brainstorm effectively, nothing is off limits, so more ideas are better than less.  Grab a stack of Post-Its and have everyone in your group, or just yourself, fill up 40-50 notes with ideas and then share.  No idea is too outlandish so think big!
    • Brainwriting – similar to above idea using Post-Its, this exercise is best done in group brainstorming sessions.  Each person receives a piece of paper, each with a different piece topic or piece of the puzzle to be figured out.  Everyone writes ideas to address these topics for three minutes and then passes their paper to the right while receiving another piece from the person on their left.  This process can help retain a little anonymity as to who wrote what so that ideas can be judged in a more unbiased manner.
    • Worksheets - If you’re doing a solo brainstorming session and the idea of a sitting in a quiet room, staring at a blank sheet of paper scares you into paralysis, than this exercise is for you!  Sometimes, simply having a structured starting point and guided check-ins along the way can help direct creative thinking to where it needs to go.  Enter, the brainstorming worksheet!  Check out these free, printables where you can keep all your brainstorming content in one organized place, like deadlines, steps needed, imaginative ideas and more.  Or for another twist, give this alphabetical brainstorming worksheet a try.  You may be happily surprised by what shows up!

    Don’t forget to record your new ideas!

    What a terrible feeling it is to have had a monumental idea, only to realize down the road that you forgot to record it somewhere.  The worksheet technique mentioned above offers both a brainstorming exercise, while simultaneously creating records of all your thinking sessions in an organized format – win-win!  But there are plenty of other ways to record you and/or your group’s musings.

    • Designate a note-taker for every brainstorm session.  This person does not contribute ideas, but simply records the thoughts of others, no matter their personal bias.  To make sure this person’s ideas are included in the discussion, consider allowing them to add a few thoughts to their notes as the meeting wraps up.
    • Mindmapping – essentially words, phrases, numbers, acronyms and more, interconnected to each other and structured around a common goal or concept, can be used to garner creativity about pretty much anything.  This technique can be used as both an idea organizing tool AND a brainstorming exercise!
    These are just a few of the endless ways you can make the brainstorming process work for you.  Try our suggestions, and if they don’t work, you might find something else that provides better brainstorming for you.  It’s not the process that’s important – it’s your will to toss around ideas and throw caution to the wind!   

    1 Response

    Christine Fichtner
    Christine Fichtner

    July 30, 2016

    I wish someone would invent something that allows one to refill the kitchen detergent dispenser (which is unseen under the counter) without overflowing from bubbles or overfilling. That is one of my pet peeves.

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