Chances are you’ve probably been hearing about brainstorming techniques since you were in school. And for good reason. Setting aside time to brainstorm is one of the best ways to quickly come up with new ideas, create new frames of references, or try something new.
However, it isn’t helpful to just know that brainstorming is an option. What is helpful is knowing what types of brainstorming frameworks you can use when needed. We’ve curated a list of some of the best ways to brainstorm your next big idea, whether you’re doing it solo or you’re harnessing the brainpower of a whole team.
Let’s dive in.
How it works: An idea tree is probably one of the more common ways to brainstorm. You start with a central idea in the middle of the diagram. Then you create branches from that idea to other ideas as they pop up and you start seeing connections much like a tree. Ideas can be written, color-coded, or denoted with symbols.
When to use this: The more connections between your ideas, the more of a coherent idea tree you’ll have to work with. An idea tree is useful in visualizing how seemingly unrelated ideas are interrelated. It’s a way to discover combinations of ideas that you might not have been able to otherwise.
How it works: A Venn diagram uses two or more overlapping circles together. The areas where both circles overlap is where you can add ideas that are in common. The space where the circles don’t overlap is where you want to write standalone ideas.
When to use this: Venn diagrams are great for comparing and contrasting ideas. It’s a great way to outline what overlaps and what’s different between two concepts or more.
How it works: Think of storyboarding as a series of images that come together to form a cohesive story. While you might have heard it within the context of novels or movies, storyboarding is an excellent brainstorming technique for any initiative that’s primarily narrative-driven.
When to use this: It’s a great brainstorming technique for brand development initiatives, creating ads, developing a company mission, or even writing a book. It’s a great way to visualize the linear progression of a story or idea that has scenes, phases, or milestones worth expanding on.
How it works: Working with a team? Try using the step ladder brainstorming technique. To do this, you’ll want to start with two team members discussing the topic at hand, then after some time add another team member to the discussion, and so on. Do this until you get the whole team involved and see how your ideas and suggestions take shape.
When to use this: The step ladder brainstorming technique works great for teams that want a brainstorming framework that includes everyone and ensures their ideas are heard.
How it works: Sometimes brainstorming within constraints is a great way to come up with your best ideas. To try rapid ideation, set a time limit then allow your team to brainstorm as many ideas as possible within your time limit. Once the time is up, bring all your ideas together and take some time to pick out the best ones. You can try this as many times as possible until you come upon an idea worth actioning.
When to use this: Rapid ideation is great for teams that are under time constraints or want a new and creative way to use constraints to stimulate the creative process.
How it works: Chances are, you’ve probably used this ideation technique at some point. Writing your ideas on post-it notes —whether physically or on digital post-it notes —can help delineate your process. With post-it notes being different colors, you can use that as a way to group similar ideas with the same color.
When to use this: Post-it notes brainstorming is great for both in-office sessions and remote team brainstorming calls. There’s no limit to how or where you can use sticky notes, making it one of the more flexible brainstorming techniques.
How it works: Start by assigning a team leader to a whiteboard. Then have your team start voicing their ideas while the assignee records them. As each idea is recorded and visible to the team, discuss any connections detected or objections to any ideas on the list.
When to use this: The beauty of whiteboarding is that you can use it during real-life brainstorms or create an online space where teams can gather from anywhere in the world. As a brainstorming technique, it’s one of the easiest ways to visualize and make decisions on ideas. It works great as a group brainstorming technique.
How it works: A fill-in-the-blank approach can be useful when you’re ideating blog topic ideas. If, for example, you’ve created headlines that have worked in the past, you can use them as “fill in the blank” templates to brainstorm new topic ideas within your niche.
When to use this: This is an effective brainstorming technique when you’re trying to brainstorm lots of ideas around headlines, blurbs, summaries, or even introductions.
AI writing assistant
How it works: Sometimes we hit a block with brainstorming. But that’s where AI writing generators can come up with ideas for you until you find something you can work with. For example, with Jasper, you can use one of its templates or start from scratch.
Once you navigate to the Jasper dashboard, tap on Documents, then click on Start from scratch.
On the left-hand side, enter:
- Title of the topic
- A short summary of what you’re trying to brainstorm about
- Your preferred tone of voice
- Your keywords (if any)
- Your preferred language
- Your preferred length
Hit the Generate button to instantly get fresh content around your topic. Don’t like it? simply click the button again to generate another version. Here’s an example:
When to use this: An AI tool is great for when you need to brainstorm written content but don’t have any fresh ideas to start with. If you're trying to overcome writer’s block and not getting anywhere, this is the perfect time to try out an AI writing tool like Jasper. Once the AI writer gets your creative juices flowing, you can modify the text and infuse it with your own ideas.
How it works: Improvisation isn’t your typical brainstorming exercise. Largely used in acting scenarios, it can do a lot for idea generation if you use it with a group of people. Gather a group of people and designate a team lead. The team lead should start with a sentence and the next person down the line should create a “yes, and” statement that adds to the original question. The next person in line does the same with the previous sentence, and so on.
When to use this: Improvisational brainstorming works best when there are a lot of group members. It works best in settings where team members can let go of their inhibitions to let their creative juices flow. You’d be surprised at how many creative solutions and a number of ideas can come out of this real-time brainstorming process.
How it works: SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It was designed to help you analyze each angle to address threats, uncover hidden opportunities, and develop strategies to reach an end goal.
When to use this: SWOT analysis is a great way for businesses to brainstorm through projects and company initiatives. It can also work in a non-business context when it revolves around reaching a goal.
How it works: Guided questions are exactly what they sound like. Much like a guidebook, a set of guided questions can be a great way to get the mental gears flowing and arrive at a handful of good ideas. With a guided-question brainstorm, you want to ensure you take some time to think about the best open-ended questions and organize them in a logical order.
When to use this: Guided questions are great for goal-setting and discovery processes. It’s a flexible way to ask as many questions as possible.
How it works: A Socratic circle is a great way to brainstorm around challenging a specific idea. A question and answer process—posed by the person standing in the middle of a circular team formation—can help uncover connected knowledge. The idea is that previous knowledge is connected to present knowledge. And finding those connections can lead to new discoveries.
When to use this: Socratic circles work best if done in person with a team. However, it can also be useful in online brainstorming sessions when you’re trying to do things like figure out messaging, brainstorm new marketing ideas, or challenge an old idea that needs updating.
Finding your “why”
How it works: Figuring out the “why” behind something can be a great exercise in justifying an initiative or selling a project. Consider brainstorming and jotting down a list of five “whys” around an idea to come up with your most convincing one.
When to use this: Finding your “why” can be used to justify projects, launch new initiatives, and win new clients.
How it works: Within a writing space like a whiteboard or an online editor, list a few key words that describe something. From there, brainstorm and write any additional words or phrases that come to mind. This simple technique can serve as a warmup brainstorm that’ll lead you into the heavier ideation process.
When to use this: Word storms are great when you don’t have much of a starting point. They can also work to expand just about any type of project that needs development. It’s also a great way to figure out messaging, especially if it’s to be presented in written form.
How it works: Generate five questions around your main topic starting with “who, what, when, where, and how” and then answer each of them. This way, you’re “reverse brainstorming” by generating questions before answers and going from there. Run the starbursting method on the same concept as many times as you need, to add layers to your brainstorming process.
When to use this: The starbursting method is a great tool to use when you’re trying to come up with new product ideas or you’re trying to come up with a fresh brand story. It’s also a great way to vet a new idea.
How it works: Start in the middle of a piece of paper with a central idea. Add branches to subtopics within your central idea. Create connections and annotate your findings as you go.
When to use this: Mind mapping is yet another way to come up with creative ideas in a short amount of time. Consider using it in remote team settings as a brainstorming tool that helps team members share ideas. Besides that, mind mapping can work in a variety of settings as a way to uncover different perspectives and facilitate problem-solving.
Pros and cons
How it works: A pros and cons list delineates the benefits as well as the negatives of an idea, thing, or situation. Create two lists. On one, write the pros while including the cons on the other. Be sure to compare and weigh each of them against each other to arrive at a better conclusion.
When to use this: Pros and cons brainstorms are great for when teams are in the middle of a decision-making process. Use it to make decisions on collaborative projects and initiatives as a way to move forward and add clarity to any objectives.
Start brainstorming today
There are plenty of simple brainstorming techniques that can work as facilitators for creative thinking. They are one of the best ways to unlock new ideas and discover new processes. Once you’ve made up your mind about how useful brainstorming can be to reach your goals, it’s a matter of choosing a framework that helps guide you through the process.
However, brainstorming gets harder when you’re stuck with writer’s block and need to come up with written content fast. For that, there’s Jasper. As an AI writing assistant tool, it’s the best way to brainstorm ideas with the click of a button.
With built-in templates, you can be sure to generate content for blogs, captions, ads, stories, and even personal bios.
Get started with Jasper’s free bootcamp here.