What is Brainstorming

Guide: Brainstorming

Author's Avatar

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

Brainstorming is a key method for creative problem-solving in the modern workplace. This collaborative technique harnesses the collective intellect of a group to spawn innovative solutions and ideas through free-flowing, open discussions.

Central to brainstorming is the leveraging of diverse perspectives and experiences, encouraging participants to contribute a wealth of ideas, irrespective of their conventional merit. With an emphasis on quantity over quality, brainstorming prioritizes the exploration of a vast range of concepts, allowing for the free reign of creativity that often leads to groundbreaking and unconventional solutions.

Table of Contents

What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming sessionBrainstorming is a method used to generate creative ideas and solutions through free-flowing, spontaneous discussions. It’s a collaborative process often performed in groups, encouraging participants to voice any and all ideas without criticism or judgment. The goal is to leverage participants’ diverse perspectives and experiences to spark innovation and solve problems.

Brainstorming is fundamentally a group exercise used to leverage the collective thinking of participants. The process of a brainstorming session is centred around a specific topic or problem to generate as many ideas as possible. Brainstorming is different from other methods of brainstorming as it does not prioritize finding an immediate, perfect solution. Rather, it values the exploration of a wide range of ideas, no matter how unconventional, with a focus on quantity over quality. This exploration phase is crucial, as it allows for the free flow of creativity, often leading to innovative and out-of-the-box solutions.

Key Characteristics of Brainstorming

  • Collaborative Nature: Brainstorming relies on the synergy of the group. The combined experience, knowledge, and creativity of participants enrich the process.
  • Idea Generation Focus: The primary goal is to come up with numerous ideas. Solutions and refinements are secondary at this stage.
  • Creative Freedom: Participants are encouraged to think without constraints, fostering a more creative and open idea-generation process.

Principles of Effective Brainstorming

Brainstorming can be a highly effective process if managed and facilitated well. If you are looking to conduct a brainstorming session, ensure you follow these principles to get the most out of the session.

Openness and Non-judgment

A key principle for achieving an effective brainstorming session is creating an environment where all ideas are accepted without criticism. This principle encourages those participating to contribute unconventional, out-of-the-box ideas without concern for being judged. By creating such an open environment, creativity will thrive as people feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts.

Quantity Over Quality

A good brainstorming session should focus on the output, which should be the quantity of ideas over the quality of ideas. By focusing on the need to generate a large number of ideas, participants are encouraged to think more freely and broadly. 

This approach should result in a valuable range of concepts, including some that may seem impractical or irrelevant at first but may lead to more innovative solutions when further explored with the power of group thinking within the brainstorming session.

Building on Ideas

A huge benefit of brainstorming is the ability to compound ideas. Brainstorming is not just about coming up with new ideas; it’s also about expanding and refining existing ones. Encouraging participants to build on each other’s ideas can lead to more developed, complete solutions. This collaborative aspect of brainstorming helps in enhancing and evolving ideas, often leading to more robust and well-rounded solutions.

Diverse Participation

When running a brainstorming session, it is important to have a diverse, cross-functional team to generate a wide range of ideas. You should aim to include individuals from different backgrounds, disciplines, and areas of expertise. This will bring a variety of perspectives to the group rather than ideas all generated from one perspective, which will limit the range of outputs. This diversity enriches the brainstorming process, as different viewpoints can challenge conventional thinking and lead to more innovative solutions.

Methods and Techniques for Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a flexible tool with a range of methods and techniques that can be used; each one is suited to different scenarios and group dynamics. Consider the below options to understand which method may be most suited to your brainstorming needs.

Traditional Brainstorming

Team Problem SolvingTraditional brainstorming is what most people envision when they think of brainstorming. This is a free-form, open discussion where participants are encouraged to voice any and all ideas that come to mind, no matter how outlandish they may seem.

This method’s success is based on the group dynamics and the facilitator’s skill in managing the flow of ideas. The facilitator plays a crucial role in maintaining a positive, open environment and ensuring that all participants have the opportunity to contribute.

Key Characteristics:

  • Spontaneity: Ideas are shared as they come to mind, fostering a rapid and dynamic flow of thoughts.
  • Group Dynamics: The energy and interaction of the group can significantly influence the quantity and quality of ideas generated.
  • Facilitator’s Role: The facilitator guides the session, encourages participation, and keeps the conversation on track.

Silent Brainstorming

If you have a group with strong voices that can often dominate meetings, consider silent brainstorming. This method is designed to counteract the dominance of more vocal participants in traditional brainstorming sessions. In this method, individuals write down their ideas independently before sharing them with the group. This ensures that introverted participants or those hesitant to speak up in a group setting have their ideas heard and considered. This method is ideal for creating equal opportunities for everyone to input their ideas.

Key Benefits:

  • Inclusivity: Allows for the participation of all group members, regardless of their communication style.
  • Thoughtfulness: Ideas are often more considered and refined as participants have time to think them through before sharing.

Round Robin Brainstorming

Another approach to brainstorming is the structured method of round-robin brainstorming. In this method, participants take turns sharing ideas, one at a time, around the room. This method continues to go around the room until everyone has run out of ideas.  This structure ensures that each member has an equal opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts.

Key Advantages:

  • Equal Participation: Prevents domination by more outspoken members.
  • Organized Flow: This helps in managing larger groups by providing a clear structure for idea sharing.


BrainwritingIn brainwriting, participants write their ideas on paper or cards and then pass them on to others who add or build upon them. This iterative process results in ideas being expanded and refined by multiple participants. It combines individual thinking with group collaboration, often leading to more developed ideas.

Key Elements:

  • Collaboration: Encourages building upon others’ ideas, leading to more comprehensive solutions.
  • Variety of Perspectives: Each participant adds their unique perspective to the ideas, enriching them.

Mind mapping

Mind mapping is a visual brainstorming technique. It starts with a central idea, and related ideas are added in a branching structure around it. This method is particularly effective for visualizing the connections between different ideas and is beneficial for individuals who think more visually.

Key Features:

  • Visual Organization: Helps in structurally organizing thoughts.
  • Idea Connections: Facilitates the understanding of how ideas interrelate.

Online Brainstorming

With the rise of remote work, online brainstorming has become increasingly important. Digital tools have been developed to facilitate brainstorming sessions, allowing participants to contribute either in real-time or asynchronously. Online platforms can incorporate elements of traditional brainstorming, brainwriting, and even mind mapping, often enhanced with multimedia capabilities.

Key Aspects:

  • Accessibility: Enables participation regardless of geographical location.
  • Diverse Tools: Utilizes various digital tools for idea generation and organization.

Each of these brainstorming methods and techniques has its unique strengths and can be chosen based on the specific needs of the group or the nature of the problem being addressed. Beyond this list there is a wide range of other methods for brainstorming that can be used, such as the SCAMPER method, however, these are the main ones.

The key is to create an environment that encourages creativity and leverages the collective intelligence of the group.

Getting the Best Results from Brainstorming Sessions

Having led and participated in countless brainstorming sessions over the years, I’ve picked up a few tricks that can really help you make a difference.

Here’s my personal take on getting the most out of your brainstorming efforts. First and foremost, clarity of the goal is key. Before getting started, make sure everyone understands the problem you’re tackling. It’s like setting the destination for your journey; without it, you’re just wandering. Where possible write it on a whiteboard or paper and stick it on the wall visible for everyone in the session and refer back to it if the session goes off topic.


Creativity and Idea Generation

I cannot stress enough the importance of creating a judgment-free zone. It’s amazing what ideas can surface when people don’t fear being shot down by others. Remember, brainstorming is about volume and variety; evaluation comes later. And here’s a tip: encourage wild ideas. Sometimes, the most out-of-the-box suggestion can spark the solution you need.

Diversity in your team is your best friend. Different perspectives can challenge and inspire, leading to more innovative solutions. It’s like adding more colors to your palette; the result is often more vibrant and surprising.

Now, managing the session itself can be a bit of an art. Keep things moving with time limits for each phase but be flexible enough to dive deeper when you’re onto something good. Visual aids, whether sticky notes or digital boards, can be incredibly helpful. They make abstract ideas tangible and can reveal connections you might miss otherwise.

Lastly, what you do after the session is just as important. Summarize the ideas, assign ownership, and set timelines. This follow-through turns great ideas into tangible outcomes.


In conclusion, brainstorming is a vital tool for innovation and problem-solving in collaborative environments. By adhering to key principles like openness, non-judgment, and diversity, and employing various methods tailored to the group’s dynamics, brainstorming transforms into an effective conduit for collective creativity.

The real power of brainstorming lies in its ability to amalgamate a multitude of perspectives into a cohesive, creative force. With proper management, facilitation, and follow-up, brainstorming sessions can transcend mere idea generation, culminating in actionable, innovative solutions that are pivotal to organizational and team success.


A: Brainstorming is a creative problem-solving technique that involves generating a large number of ideas in a group or individual setting. It is a process of free thinking and idea generation without judgment or criticism.

A: Brainstorming typically involves a group of people who come together to generate ideas on a specific topic or problem. The participants share their ideas, build upon each other’s suggestions, and explore different perspectives. The goal is to generate a wide range of ideas, encourage creativity, and identify innovative solutions.

A: Brainstorming offers several benefits, such as stimulating creativity, fostering collaboration, encouraging diverse perspectives, and generating a large pool of ideas. It can lead to innovative solutions, help overcome obstacles, and inspire new ways of thinking.

A: To make a brainstorming session more effective, it is important to define a clear objective, create a supportive environment, encourage active listening, and follow established brainstorming rules. Diversity in participants, utilizing creativity-enhancing techniques, and facilitating open and respectful communication can also contribute to the effectiveness of a session.

A: Yes, there are different types of brainstorming techniques. Traditional brainstorming involves a free-flowing exchange of ideas. Other techniques include brainwriting (where ideas are written down individually), mind mapping (creating visual representations of ideas), and reverse brainstorming (identifying potential problems or obstacles).


Picture of Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website learnleansigma.com, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

All Posts

Free Lean Six Sigma Templates

Improve your Lean Six Sigma projects with our free templates. They're designed to make implementation and management easier, helping you achieve better results.

Other Guides