Whether you are problem solving, idea finding or making strategic decisions, effective idea generation techniques are essential. In this blog we’ll share some of our favourite techniques.
We can’t talk about idea generation techniques without mentioning standard brainstorming. Everybody knows what standard brainstorming is but do we all do it effectively? To make brainstorming effective we suggest the following 5 simple steps:
1. Collect ideas. DO NOT judge or discuss ideas at this stage. If others do, politely stop them and say discussions are later. In fact, we’d suggest setting this as a rule before even starting the session.
2. Cut and combine similar ideas
3. Decide on decision-making criteria. This means factors that are important in decision-making and idea selection, such as, cost, effectiveness, time restraints, etc.
4. Get Consensus. To keep things objective use prioritised criteria as a point of reference.
5. Create actions. For a brainstorming session to be successful a clear action plan is essential.
Now that we have standard brainstorming out of the way let’s look at some of our favourite idea generation tools:
As the title suggest this means all participants write their ideas down on a post it then stick on a whiteboard.
The process for ‘post-it’ brainstorming is:
1. Set up the brainstorming process with key problem solving question.
2. Ask participants to write down their ideas onto large post-its.
3. Get participants to stick these post-its on a whiteboard or large flip board.
4. Go through the standard brainstorming discussion and selection process.
The key benefit of this technique is that all members can contribute. In addition it’s also a very practical way to categorise, cut and combine ideas easily – we can simply unstick then stick in new spot.
We can also add some rules to encourage more participation, for example, everybody must fill in at least 3 post-its. We can also make the process anonymous, which can help avoid group think. (Group think means all people follow the general consensus, irrespective of their true feelings.)
It is also a good technique for breakout group situations, as it makes it easier for you to monitor progress and encourages participants to stand up and get more involved.
Reverse brainstorming helps you solve problems and overcome creative thinking blocks by reversing the brainstorming technique.
The process for ‘reverse’ brainstorming is:
1. Identify and state the problem, for example: How can we improve work life balance?
2. Reverse the original problem, and ask the counter-question, for example, How can we make WLB worse?
3. Follow this up by brainstorming ideas to the reverse question.
4. Once you have a list, reverse each idea or statement into a positive solution.
5. Evaluate all ideas.
Reverse brainstorming is a good technique for creative problem solving, and can lead to robust solutions. It is also very useful when it is difficult to identify solutions to a problem directly.
Mind Mapping helps us improve the way we collect information by visualising, connecting and building on key ideas.
A good mind map clearly identifies individual core points and helps us understand the connection between them. In doing this we can create more robust plans and easier to understand business strategies.
The process for Mind Mapping is:
Step 1. Write a short statement based on a problem you are trying to solve, or a task or you are trying to complete at the centre of the whiteboard.
Step 2. Add subheadings connected to the core task or problem. Use simple phrases or single words.
Step 3. Add to each subheading and create another layer of information. We can then keep adding important extra layers of information until we are satisfied with the output and / or broken down the problem into manageable parts.
For a very simple visual representation of the process see the sample below. The example is based on Platinum Training’s Advanced Facilitation program design and planning process.
Starbursting is a form of brainstorming that collects questions rather than answers. For example, at Platinum we are considering developing self- development apps for smart devices. The first question we ask might be “Who is the customer?”
Obviously we need to go further than this to ensure a deeper understanding of the market, customers, competitors and so on. This is where ‘Starbursting’ can help.
The process for Starbursting is:
1. Draw a large six-pointed star in the middle of a whiteboard, and write the idea or challenge in the center.
2. Write the words “Who”, “What”, “Why,” “Where,” “When,” and “How” at the tip of each point of the star.
3. Brainstorm questions about the idea or challenge. The questions radiate out from the central star. Don’t try to answer any of the questions yet, instead, concentrate on thinking up as many questions as you can.
4. If the goal of the exercise is to consider solutions, we can expand the starbursting session to explore answers to these initial questions. This is a great way to set up some SMART goals
See below for a simple example based on Platinum Training’s business idea of launching a business soft skill training app:
If you want to learn more about advanced facilitation skills and creative idea generation tools feel free to contact us at:
For even more ideas visit the excellent HubSpot at: