Back to Basics : Brainstorming

Very general question, what is brainstorming ?

Asking for your takes, experiences, references (any books/websites) on this tool that you can share.

Points of curiosity:

-Running a Brainstorm with designers vs mixed group (marketing, engineering) vs cross cultural?
-Different types of themes (bluesky, 2010’s model change, or whatever?)
-Brainstorm objective (generate as many ideas as possible, build off of last times ideas, find a solution 2 one problem, come up with final directions)
-Brainstorming activities (have people sketch/write, create a list of problems than solutions, etc)

Everything depends on whatever your objectives are, so basically sharing experiences/references to start would be awesome.

Well, it is very situational.

For a larger session with mixed disciplines around a 5 year plan blue sky, or next years product line, I will typically set it up off site. I recently did one with our design, marketing, and engineering team at the RISD Art Museum. We started with a private tour by one of the directors, a peak at the archives with 3 of the curators, then we went to a room off their 20th century collection and saw a few consumer research and brand direction presentations, got a great lunch, and then really got to work on where we felt it was going, built a play list, several consumer “characters” and what product would fit…

On a weekly basis, if a market or manufacturing issue comes up, I might just grab a few people, some munchkins or peanut m&m’s, pull them into a room, and brief them on the problem and start hashing it out casually.

For me brainstorming is a term that can a apply to an indivigual however it is most often used with groups. I will say that in my experiance the most productive brainstorms are one’s in which no one descounts ideas. This only creates negativity and prevents people from openly sharing.

Most of the brainstorm I take part in are generating ideas…usaully a broad situation or problem where we try and come up with as many solutions as possible. People usually share ideas on a large sheet of paper or white board with sketches or words.

Brainstorming is to come up as many ideas as possible based on inspirations from other team members. The principal is not to critisize and kill any ideas that might seem obserd or totally impossible.

Best results come from the paticipation from all team members with different backgrounds. You will be amazed by the end results…

We also do a lot of ideation with all team members together.

  • M

I was checking out the wikipedia explanation of brainstorming and the compiler says that research shows that brainstorming output is no better than individuals working on their own and then goes on to say something around the likes of brainstorming is good for motivation and moral as in its a fun excercise.


Ahhh, you touch ever so slightly on the most key factor to a succesful brainstorming session… Snacks!

“Jump Start Your Brain” is the best book on brainstorming in my opinion. Doug Hall’s central thesis is that effective brainstorming requires humor and stimulus–even random stimulus like magazines. The book is full of exercises, like dice-rolling to force-associate, etc. It works!!!

Groups are effective if people are able to “bridge” off the ideas of others. You’re not going to get that in solitary thinking.

“Nominal Group Technique” is a unique type of brainstorm & filtering process that I’ve had a lot of success with–particularly if it’s with business people or SME’s and not designers.

I think we’re entering a new age of brainstorming via the web. Call it “time-shifted” brainstorming. This thread is a perfect example! Twitter is even better! David Pogue recently wrote a book called “The World According to Twitter” where he basically used Twitter to “crowdsource” a bunch of different topics. He printed the best ones in his book (and I’m in it for an idea I pitched on how to improve air-travel! @gielow)

I am starting a brainstorming program in my company for our design projects and need to get more informed than just what I remember from college! I need to develop a brainstorming technique to get a diverse group (designers, acount execs, CEOs) to generate more out-of-the-box ideas. We’ve tried to brainstorm before but to no success, I think I need to convince people to try it then educate them and myself how to do it, then order some awesome snacks! Another idea would be to hire some sort of consultant… any ideas?

I feel a big part of the benefit of brainstorming is clearly in the latter part of your wiki paraphrase. It lets the client feel like they are an active participant in an exercise that is way outside of their normal routine. It’s a little adventure they take for an hour, or two, and it makes them feel a part of the creative process. That feeling of inclusion, alone, can make the client more open to “radical” ideas if they feel they played a part in it.

That being said, a team of good people, who can quickly piggyback ideas into any number of directions, is a powerful thing. Thinking, and designing, in the vacuum of your own head can severely limit the possibilities of where a product can go.

edit: I see now that I repeat a bit of what CG said… My bad.

Aside from doing the thing mentioned above, we usually put together big brainstorming session to kick off major project like packaging for Christmas, new products, etc… These sessions usually involve a very large cross-functional team that includes Design, Marketing, Sales, Product Developers (Candy Developers), and most of the time a few people from our graphic agencies. Because it is such a big team what I have found that helps out a lot is to give everyone pre-work. This could mean that they have to go to stores and bring in something that fits the session, or they have to bring sales data to the session that points in the right direction, or we (packaging) will sometimes jump ahead and put some concepts together to point the session in a certain direction.

I think the big thing is to keep it open, but also to be prepared and have a direction you want to head in or a goal you want to accomplish. If you do that then at the end you will end up with information that you can use.