Fostering the flow of innovative ideas


Brainstorming is a well-known, fast approach to collecting ideas. It is inclusive, encourages creativity and stimulates spontaneous thought processes. It can generate inspiration for innovation.

How to use it

  • Produce ideas and stimulate creativity
  • Define ideas
  • Overcome blocks and think critically
  • Plan approaches or solve problems

How to apply it


Present the subject (e.g. a problem, project, outcome, organization or idea) to the group as a challenge.


Involves entire group, with a facilitator to record ideas. If the facilitator is writing down ideas, it is helpful also to have a moderator, to ensure that all ideas are properly captured and that the process is well managed.


Flip-charts or sticky-notes to record ideas.

  • If the group is larger than 15 people, divide into smaller working groups, to encourage balanced participation.
  • Clearly establish the two critical rules:
    1. There are no bad ideas. Now is the best time to think outside the box.
    2. No judgements will be accepted, because this is the stage for free flowing of ideas.
  • The ideas generated can be captured in many ways. E.g. participants speak out loud and a facilitator writes the points on flip-charts or participants write their ideas on sticky notes after announcing them.
  • When no more ideas are being offered, allow about 2 more minutes of silence, to be sure that every idea has truly been shared.
  • The ideas generated can inform subsequent exercises on the content, such as Case Studies or De Bono Six Thinking Hats.
  • To organise ideas further, cluster sticky notes into logical groups of related ideas for later review.
  • To evaluate the ideas, use methods such as Dotmocracy: clearly display all ideas and instruct participants to place a sticky dot, or other indicator, underneath the ideas that seem most promising. Select the ideas with the most “votes” for further analysis or action.
  • Conduct a participatory debriefing of the brainstorm, at which stage the exercise concludes

How to adapt it

  • Brainwriting
  • A simple way to represent the ideas collected is to use a free online tool to generate a word cloud
  • Buzzgroups are small brainstorming groups, where participants share their individual ideas and prioritize them. The highest-rated ideas from all groups are then presented and clustered to create an overview.
  • Online Brainstorming can be used in Phase 1 of the blended learning approach by inviting participants to share ideas in a discussion forum or wiki, or using synchronous technologies.
  • Three Stage Brainstorming starts by conducting a short brainstorm on simple topics to get participants into the creative thinking mode.
    • Move on to the “brain dump” stage, inviting all thoughts on the specific subject.
    • Phase 2, “divergent thinking”, asks participants to produce ideas related to those already captured, such as risks,  implementation or resources.
    • The final phase, “creative ideation”, examines ideas in more depth and reformulates them into possible solutions.
  • See the Top 100 Lists method for another approach to Brainstorming, or TRIZ for reverse brainstorming methods.


  • Create a productive, playful atmosphere to encourage participants to relax and share without inhibitions.
  • Allow the process to take a natural course, without time limits or directions. To help this, carefully select a specific, concrete subject.
  • To make practical use of the ideas, follow the exercise with convergent processes, to cluster and evaluate them.
  • Brainstorming topics need not be negative problem statements. They can also examine positive scenarios or wanted consequences.


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