Breakthrough Brainstorming: What’s your favorite flavor?

‘Training for Success’ with Bill Russell

Bill Russell has worked with clients globally from a variety of industries including defense, telecom, banking, manufacturing, automotive, aviation, medical equipment, healthcare, and universities. Through the use of workshops, presentations, and interventions, he strives for quick, collaborative implementations that prioritize actions on the issues that yield the fastest and largest payback and encourage multiple cycles of learning. In other words, Bill believes in training for success. In this column, Bill will offer words of advice on how to get the most out of your training sessions. A firm believer in the power of reading and continuing education, Bill will also offer a recommended read at the conclusion of every piece.
More insights about critical thinking:

Doesn’t it seem like we need creative breakthroughs today more than ever before? Our goals get tougher; our time limits shorter and our budgets smaller. Where do we turn to get new ideas when we need them?

When preparing the materials for the Critical Thinking Course Tool Kit, we discovered one of the six core tools was brainstorming. It seemed universally familiar, but when we researched it, we were delighted to discover an untapped potential for generating those new ideas.  Did you know there were more than 50 different kinds of brainstorming? Below are a few of our favorite “flavors.”

With legacy brainstorming, begin by posing a question. Allow participants to write down their ideas in silence on small note cards, one idea per card. Place the cards on a wall and arrange them according to themes. This is a powerful technique, because everyone participates.  It’s visual, and it encourages a wide variety of ideas.

In reverse brainstorming, turn the issue around. Discuss how NOT to accomplish your goal.  See what new insights this might provide. Then, further brainstorm important difficult issues.

Prepare a grid. Fill in column headings with descriptions of the ideal solution. (Limit to 5 to 6 columns). Label the rows with the same headings. At each intersection, brainstorm ideas that combine those two attributes.

Round Robin
Arrange boards around a room, placing a different topic on each. Divide the group equally between the boards. Give each group 5 to 10 minutes to brainstorm at each board, and then rotate to the next. Have them return to their home boards, group the ideas into themes, and report to their groups. Covers a lot of ground in a hurry.

Mind Maps
Place a central topic in the center of a board. Brainstorm ideas related to it. Write them around it and connect with lines, like spokes on a wheel. Free associate. Brainstorm ideas for the secondary topics and connect to them.

What have you tried? Tell us about a brainstorming breakthrough that’s worked for you. Share photos or video.

Recommended Reading: Quick Brainstorming Activities for Busy Managers: 50 Exercises to Spark Your Team’s Creativity and Get Results Fast by Brian Cole Miller