7 Ways to Brainstorm

7 Ways to Brainstorm
Irene Krahling

Brief. Brainstorm. Write. Repeat. We’re all familiar with the standard brainstorming process, and most likely, we’ve all gotten stuck in it. But there are many different ideation techniques that you can use to reinvigorate your brainstorms and make sure that you and your team are on the right path.

Here are a few that we use at Day One to shape fresh ideas each day.

1. Asking the Right Question

To set up a brainstorm, we’re inspired by IDEO’s ideation process. This revolves around rephrasing insights into “How might we…” questions. Often times, asking the right question leads to finding the right solution. The ‘How might we’ question is a really thoughtful way of framing the brief, which is crucial. Each word is important: How implies it is possible. Might implies there are many ways to achieve it. We means we’re going to solve it together. So, next time you’re setting up a brainstorm, don’t rush past phrasing the big questions the right way.

2. 60-minute Brainstorm

This is a regimented hour-long brainstorm that should follow a specific structure. We divide the brainstorm into 15-minute sections: start with a discussion of the brief. Next, generate as many ideas as you can with a blue-sky session. Then, look for themes and consolidate. Finally, discuss the ideas that resonated with the group and identify the territories that are worth detailing in another session.

3. The Silent Brainstorm

A big part of a successful brainstorm is including a diverse set of perspectives. One of the often-overlooked aspects of group dynamics is introversion and extroversion. To ensure that every voice is heard, we will often start with a silent brainstorm. In this setting, we’ll set up the brief, then everyone will go silent. For 10 minutes or so, each person will write up their ideas. Then, we’ll go around the room, one-by-one, discussing the ideas so everyone has a chance to share. This single tactic has been hugely beneficial at Day One.

4. Directional Thinking

This is also known as non-face-to-face brainstorming. There are a few ways to do this, but it’s ultimately about letting people come up with a single idea on their own time in their own setting. Sometimes, ideas will be swapped and shared in the middle of this process. For example, have participants submit their ideas via email throughout the day, so people can send good ideas on their own time and include links/notes of their own.

5. Slackstorm

We’ve piloted a new style of brainstorming when we’re on a deadline, which we call the “Slackstorm.” We use Slack as our inter-office communications tool, and we recently started testing ways to connect various teams across coasts to tackle creative problems. The way it works is: set up a new Slack Channel specifically for the brainstorm, create a list of people to invite, and pin the brief at the top of the channel. Throughout the day ideas will roll in and spark other ideas. People pop in and out. Someone drops a link, which sparks half of an idea from someone else. It’s a very organic way of generating a lot of ideas quickly.

6. 6–3–5 Technique

Get six people together, individually write three ideas down on paper/post-its, then pass the ideas around and sit with them for five minutes each, iterating on each other’s ideas until you’ve come full circle. This is a fun format to shake up your thinking and get in sync with your team. It helps to have a diverse group of people from different areas of expertise in your brainstorms. You want everyone to bring their own unique perspective to the table, and outsiders often have the best ideas.

7. Association Method

Also known as mind-mapping, this is where individuals write down as many ideas as they can around a given topic. Then you’ll share ideas by merging them together into an ‘idea map’ and distilling from there. Look for through-lines. Is there a center of gravity around which most ideas are hovering? Use this as a clue to keep exploring.