To get the best out of your team, you have to be analytical about your approach, recognizing what you need and which strategy is most likely to get you there. That’s why we’ve covered a range of the best brainstorming techniques — to give you a choice of options that break your business deadlock and find the solutions you need.
Starting our list, we’ve gone for one of the simplest but best brainstorming techniques to start your collaborative project planning — mind mapping. You’ll probably have used this way back in your school days, but it works great. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Mind mapping allows your teams to visualize not just your ideas but the connections between them. It’s an easy process to start. Create a central concept, such as the goal of your project, in the center of a board and branch out into related ideas to create a network of interconnected thoughts.
However, now you can get rid of that cumbersome sheet of paper and replace it with an interactive mind map on the cloud This collaborative brainstorming method has several advantages. Firstly, it is far clearer and more coherent than its paper counterpart, with search functions so you can immediately find what you’re looking for. Secondly, you can use it to create tasks directly in your task management tool and block out time on your calendar. But perhaps the best feature is that it is cloud-based, so international remote teams can get creative as if they were all together.
One of the drawbacks of brainstorming techniques like mind mapping is there is a tendency for louder individuals to take over and drown out the quieter ones. This is especially true if half of your team is physically present, with the other half connecting via video call.
Round-robin brainstorming is one of the best idea-generation techniques for getting input from everybody. It is an inclusive, democratic structure that puts the spotlight on each participant individually. Everybody gets their chance to contribute ideas without interruption, which can often lead to more diverse thoughts reaching the surface.
It’s easy enough to do round-robin brainstorming when you’re in the office, but now you can just as easily host it online. Most video conferencing software will even allow you to mute all participants except one. So when it comes round to each participant’s turn, you can be sure there will be no interruptions.
With round-robin brainstorming, the benefits don’t just stop at giving more diverse ideas equal weight as route-one suggestions. You also help to convey a sense of shared ownership among your team, which is a powerful motivator.
Brainwriting is a version of team collaboration that takes the best bits of mind mapping and round-robin brainstorming to produce one of the simplest yet most innovative brainstorming methods out there. Brainwriting involves participants noting their ideas independently, then passing them on to others for further development.
It is less overtly collaborative than mind mapping, for example, which is often a louder, more physical experience. Instead, brainwriting is a silent process, which helps to cut out overarching group influences and interpersonal bias. This gives every idea the chance to flourish without any prior reservations holding it back.
Brainwriting is another of our project brainstorming strategies that works even better online than on paper. Collaborative documents on the cloud allow participants to write, share, and expand on ideas asynchronously without being influenced by others' contributions. Another advantage of working in a digital format is that the final product can be saved in your for future reference.
If you find more synchronous brainstorming techniques aren’t working as you’d like them, brainwriting offers a more personal alternative where everybody can take away their task, work in peace, and bring back the results. Freed from the fear of immediate criticism, more timid team members will thrive in brainwriting.
A SWOT analysis, for those unfamiliar, is a cornerstone of brainstorming techniques. It is essentially a structured evaluation of:
Using each strand to analyze your project, you get a full understanding of the scope you can encompass, the challenges you are likely to encounter, and any areas you can improve upon.
Although most idea-generation techniques involve flexibility, free thinking, and creativity, it’s wise to provide a clear and coherent structure for a SWOT analysis. This avoids the possibility of missing crucial elements and suffering the repercussions later in the project timeline.
The best way to create a structure for your SWOT analysis is through repeatable workflow templates. Create step-by-step tasks to cover all your bases, but feel free to get creative within each step. At the end of every project, you can assess the performance of your workflow and add constructive tasks or remove superfluous parts to optimize your next effort.
By shedding light on your project from multiple angles, a SWOT analysis strengthens your project planning methods and gives you more confidence as you move forward.
Unlimited Users FREE
Leaving the conventional brainstorming techniques, we’re moving into the realm of rolestorming. This creative strategy isn’t just great for picking up new ideas; you and your team will have a lot of fun in the process.
The basic principle is that participants adopt various personas, from shareholders and clients to suppliers and local citizens, to consider the project from other points of view. By getting out of your own mindset and embracing another, you get an injection of innovative thinking and often bring up unique solutions you wouldn’t usually come across in traditional brainstorming techniques.
Rolestorming is at its best when it feels real — not when it’s a convoluted, forced process. Again, technology can give you a boost in this regard. Interactive virtual meetings are a great way for people to get into character and replicate a real-life scenario. It also trains your team in thinking quickly and creatively when they’re thrown a curveball, but all in a safe, consequence-free environment.
As a final advantage of rolestorming, it is a powerful way of empathizing with others. For projects with multiple stakeholders, it’s all too easy to see some individuals as nothing more than roadblocks to your progress. By helping you get into their shoes, rolestorming often helps you and your team better understand a range of perspectives. This can be the source of breakthrough solutions that you can’t get via traditional routes.
In the area of more out-of-the-box thinking, we’re moving on to reverse brainstorming — an unconventional approach that looks at how you could cause the problem you’re trying to solve. Reverse brainstorming is a great method for shaking things up if you and your team find yourselves banging your heads against a wall, unable to find a way around a sticking point in your project
Using task management tools, you can enhance your reverse brainstorming efforts. Create tasks for each threat to your goals and prioritize them by feasibility and impact. This will give you an idea of how to deploy your resources, assigning more time, effort, and personnel to the higher-risk, more probable impacts.
Starbursting is quite different from the rest of the brainstorming techniques on this list as it doesn’t explicitly look for solutions. It starts with a core idea, which could be your overall goal or a milestone to achieve along the way. With your idea front and center, you then generate questions related to it based on the classic question words: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Starbursting generates a lot of content by definition, and that’s the whole point. By continually questioning, you dig deeper into the core of each task and uncover potential challenges that are easily overlooked. For example, if your project is to set up an e-commerce, it’s very easy to say “Let’s make a website”. But with starbursting, you open up questions such as:
What items should we upsell?
How should it look?
Where will the server be?
Who will take care of SEO?
When will we launch the site?
With this ultra-analytical approach, you consider every aspect of your project, stimulate critical thinking, and foresee potential roadblocks. Sure, actively looking for issues with your ideas isn’t the most inspiring activity, but it is one of the most effective project planning methods for avoiding unpredictable difficulties.
Right at the other end of the collaborative brainstorming spectrum, we have rapid ideation. As the name suggests, this is a high-paced activity where participants throw out as many ideas as possible in a constrained timeframe. The idea behind it is that you take away the chance to over-analyze situations, so encourage your team not to worry about the feasibility or costs of each idea. If people throw up preposterous, impossible ideas, that’s fine — it is still in the spirit of this team collaboration effort.
Rapid ideation is another one of our project brainstorming strategies that requires a solid structure to spark maximum creativity. In this case, it’s all about increasing time pressure to force your team members into a position where they can’t overthink.Time-tracking tools are generally used for measuring performance, but you can easily adapt them as a countdown clock, announcing when there are 10 seconds left to increase the pressure. A countdown helps maintain session momentum, allowing for a focus on idea quantity rather than quality.
The whole idea of rapid ideation is to be left with a vast amount of options to choose from at the end. Yes, you’ll have to sift through a lot of clearly impossible ideas, but there are always one or two pearls that you can only find through high-pressure brainstorming methods like rapid ideation.
In our fast-paced and increasingly digital world, businesses need effective brainstorming techniques to make quick decisions and to find innovative pathways that help them stand out. Using a variety of techniques, such as round-robin brainstorming, starbursting, and rapid ideation, you can break your team out of its routine and find innovative solutions to longstanding issues.
Some productive brainstorming techniques for project planning include:
Rapid Ideation, which encourages fast-paced idea generation within a set timeframe
Brainstorming improves project outcomes by:
All of these points help to identify potential problems and innovative solutions that are essential to project planning.
Collaboration in project planning ensures you get a diverse set of ideas and perspectives, and creates a sense of shared responsibility. This all helps to enhance your problem-solving capabilities and improve motivation throughout the project.