Brainstorming - Help me choose a topic

I am currently interning at a company who frequently seek industrial design resources such as studios etc to contract some work. The company understands the importance of Industrial Design and is beginning to embrace some of the processes (that’s where I come into place). Most of the team is engineers and used to a certain way of thinking (they have been doing it this way for over 30 years) however I have been asked to think about how this can be changed. I have started a series of weekly meetings with different topics on design, approaching research, etc. My meeting this week is concentrating on brainstorming and its importance. I have taken quite a bit of info from IDEO’s resources on brainstorming. Brainstorming here is currently very flawed due to the “it wont work” mindset and not exploring every idea.

So here’s what I am asking from you: I have set up an exercise where we are actually going to brainstorm. I do not however want it to be on a topic that we specialize in, so there will not be any thought barriers put up. I was curious if anyone had some good ideas for brainstorm ideas, I am thinking it will be a product, but I want to make sure its not too broad for an hour meeting. For instance I don’t want “Let’s brainstorm a new car design.” Basically I am looking for somewhat of a brief.

I hope this is the right section, I wasn’t exactly sure.


Apparently water buckets are a good topic if you look in the general forum :slight_smile:

In addition to the topic think of a way to structure the session to be productive. When I’m with a bunch of designers I don’t really need to set up structure because they are more comfortable throwing ideas out there. Sometimes with non designers I’ll set up lighting fast exercises. Below is an example session flow:

  1. Ice breaker. Everyone introduce themselves and answer a particular question (since we are a speaker company I usually ask people to name the first album they ever bought with their own money, or first concert). List out on post it notes and post.

  2. research grounding: 10 min presentation on the topic

  3. assumptions, everyone gets 5 minutes to write down as many assumptions about the topic’s parameters. Write each on a separate post it.

  4. 10 min share out, each person shares their assumptions, moderator sorts them into themes as they go. 5 min share out.

  5. random entry. split into groups. Each group gets a random object and has to list as many descriptors to that object (i.e. if object was a spoon you would get things like, smooth, simple, functional, metal, silver, handheld…)

  6. each group gets a shuffled assortment of assumptions and descriptors. As quickly as possible they have to generate as many solutions as they can that both ignore one assumption and use 2 descriptors. 15 mins. Write on an 8.5x11 piece of paper. Give the idea a title, wrote a brief description, and then a small doodle to visualize.

  7. team share out, 15 mins. Moderator posts on wall in a grid as they go.

:sunglasses: moderator posts on the wall a giant 2x2 with tape (one axis might be feasibility, the other might be cost, or desirability). Moderator leads group in an exercise to rank on a scale from 1-10 on each axis and then post on the 2x2 in the appropriate place.

This usually leads to some pretty out of the box ideas. It helps if there is a designer in each group pushing people.

Thanks, Yo! This all sounds perfect for what we want to achieve. I downloaded IDEO’s human centered design book and there is a great section on brainstorming, brainstorming rules etc. I think for tomorrows meeting I am going to come up with a topic, for instance we do alot of work with plastics, so maybe I will pick a persona build him/her up a bit, and then concentrate the brainstorm around a 3-d printer, etc. I am trying to keep this one as basic as possible and go for the method of coming up with as many ideas as possible. MY (aside from the meeting as a whole) main objective is to make them realize its ok to have ideas that arent backed by solid scientific evidence, and that maybe their first ideas or what they may think is the best idea is not always the greatest. I think the next meeting (I do this type of thing weekly) will be more towards what you were saying, sounds great!

As for topics to brainstorm, I would caution that this exercise will be critiqued by all those involved and those at the top (you only get one chance to make a first impression kind of thing) and since you’ve got engineers all around you wondering what value this will really bring, you might be wise to strategize…I’d shoot for a product that could potentially be seen as growth in a near category to whatever products are the company’s core strengths. Real and tangible but not what they already do/make.

Thanks, Scott. I appreciate the caution, I definitely agree with you there! Fortunately I’ve been interning with this company about 9 months and share a desk with the director of innovation, so its given me a lot of time to observe the culture, how meetings and brainstorms are currently ran, etc. This meeting will be for my team (Innovation & Development) only, and they do a pretty good job of keeping an open mind. It’s kind of funny but when starting my boss said “You’re an intern, you have nothing to loose, show this place the amazing work you’re capable of.” So I’ve been sort of just going for it. It feels good and so far I’ve gotten a great response and have done well at not overstepping my boundaries. I ended up choosing 3-d printing for the millennial DIY’er. I am keeping it pretty broad because the brainstorm is more of a “how to participate in a prosperous brainstorm” than really trying to get too much out of it. HOWEVER, our expertise is in the plastics world, so 3-d printing isn’t far from our realm and possibilities, as well as current technologies we develop.

Again, thanks for the feedback. I checked out your website, the work looks great!