15 brainstorming techniques & templates for 2021
Have you put brainstorming on hold since your team went remote? Or perhaps you’re struggling to find a way to problem solve if you’re not sitting around a big whiteboard? Maybe you are just sick of endless brainstorming sessions that never go anywhere.
Not to worry, we’re here to help! Whether you’re running brainstorming sessions as a part of a design thinking workshop, a UX design sprint or ideating on strategy for your next big launch, these 15 alternative brainstorming techniques are sure to take your creativity and idea generation to the next level!
They provide more structure, or alternate ways of looking at problems, to help you get better solutions. Plus, each technique comes with it’s very own template, so all you have to do is click the link to get started immediately.
1. Mind mapping
Mind Maps are a great technique to organize information, connect related ideas, and help capture the flow of ideas during a brainstorming session. Importantly, visualizing ideas and concepts on a Mind Map template allows you to showcase your thoughts in an organic, yet easy to follow manner by linking connected ideas. Much like the way the mind works!
Put simply, brainwriting is the introvert’s version of brainstorming. Each person is given a blank page to write down three ideas, then after five minutes, all pages are collected and passed onto someone else, who can continue to explore those existing ideas, or add their own.
Brainwriting is designed to reduce the unnecessary chit-chat and allow everyone to simultaneously add ideas, thus speeding up the process, and reduce social anxiety and ridicule. Perhaps best of all, brainwriting is effective at eliminating blocking: the problem where people forget or dismiss their own ideas due to one person dominating the discussion with their ideas.
3. Lotus Diagram
Named after it’s blossoming grid system, a lotus diagram is a simple brainstorming technique for idea generation based around one central topic. This initial central topic blossoms out to generate eight new ideas. From there, each of these ideas can again blossom out into 16 more ideas, creating at least 24 potential solutions.
4. Reverse brainstorming
Reverse brainstorming is a creative technique used to flip our perspective and turning problems into opportunities. In reverse brainstorming, you start by considering all the possible problems that you might encounter, eg: competitors release similar shoes, website crashes, leather supplier closes down. You’ll subsequently generate much more relevant and directly applicable ideas. It also shakes up old way of doing things, pushing the brain in a new direction.
5. Round Robin brainstorming
The major benefit of Round Robin brainstorming is harnessing multiple ideas to solve problems. However, where it differs is that its collaborative structure allows all voices to be heard. With Round Robin, not only do all participants visualise their ideas using text and sketches (instead of verbally), it also gives everyone’s ideas equal weight.
The other major benefit of Round Robin brainstorming is that within the session you already identify and solve potential roadblocks, before the idea has even left the paper. This is a great way to consider the true value of the idea before investing too much work.
6. How Might We
How Might We is a brainstorming technique invites teams to think about creative ways to solve problems. The framework welcomes all ideas without judgement, rather than jumping straight into finding one solution. Moveover, it places value on teamwork by focusing on how might WE as team solve this. So, if your team struggles when it comes to innovating, it might be time to introduce How Might We as the prompt for your brainstorming session.
7. Six Thinking Hats
Look at problems from six different perspectives with the six thinking hats technique. Developed by Edward de Bono, the Six Thinking Hats is a parallel thinking technique which helps teams approach problems from different angles. These are:
White: information & facts
Yellow: positive thinking
Black: cautious & critical thinking
Blue: managing and organizing
8. Affinity Diagrams
An Affinity Diagram is a visual map that organizes ideas into categorized clusters after the initial brainstorming. This process of creating affinity diagrams is known as affinity mapping. Affinity mapping allows all ideas to be strategically analyzed- instead of just focusing on one of two standouts. As clear themes start to emerge, you can consider multiple solutions to each problem. They work well for brainstorming, Six Sigma, Design Thinking and UX Design. We’ve also compiled a useful list of tools and techniques for Design Thinking.
9. What’s on your radar
When done right, a typical brainstorming session can generate a wide range of ideas. The idea is to defer judgement and focus on ‘going wide’, i.e, ignore real world constraints and consider ‘what could be’. While this is the key to the success of the brainstorming session, the sheer number of ideas generated can also be overwhelming. This is where a technique such as ‘What’s on your radar’ can come in handy.
This template is a great way to rank ideas and concepts in order of importance or feasibility. The most important ideas are placed started in the center of the template and the less important ones are arranged closer to the periphery. The 4 quadrants help further categorize the ideas.
10. Fishbone diagram
A Fishbone Diagram is a cause and effect analysis technique used to brainstorm potential causes of a problem. It’s clear, visual design lends itself to collaborative problem solving.
When conducting a fishbone analysis, teams work together to categorize the factors contributing to a problem to uncover the major issues. This root cause analysis results in a focused map of the main contributing factors, enabling people to address the problems rather than just the symptoms.
11. Crazy Eights
The Crazy Eights technique is a great way to produce a wide range of diverse ideas from the whole team. The concept is simple: give each team member eight minutes to sketch out eight ideas on a Crazy Eights template. The frenzy that follows can produce some pretty wild ideas. It is called Crazy Eights for a reason! Due to it’s illustrative nature, it’s highly popular for UX design, prototyping and Design Thinking.
12. SCAMPER brainstorming
SCAMPER is a brainstorming technique that expands your lateral thinking through seven creative prompts. The SCAMPER acronym stands for:
- Put to another use
These seven prompts will help boost your creativity and push your thinking in new directions when it comes to developing new products or improving current ones. Let’s take a closer look at how to use the SCAMPER method technique in a virtual setting with Conceptboard.