What is team brainstorming for you?
All your team is sitting next to a whiteboard and throwing ideas? We all have seen that concept dozens of times in movies, TV series, and memes. However, it’s only one option.
Will the fact that a team doesn’t even have to be in one room, in one building, or even on one continent to brainstorm together shock you? Templates for brainstorming are the tool that helps a team be a team on distance. There may still be no homage to brainstorming templates in popular culture because they leave less time for interaction and arguments, so there will be fewer funny situations, and more work will be done.
Offices’ workflow has changed dramatically over the past few years. Some teams got used to it quickly and have already made different features and tools a part of their daily work routine. Some are still learning. And some are only trying to find their way through all the challenges the modern world has for businesses, teams, projects, and individuals.
Ready-made brainstorming templates may not be the panacea for these challenges, but they make generating ideas and finding solutions easier. Additionally, they allow you to put together a team of professionals from all over the world.
What is brainstorming?
Brainstorming is an approach by which you’re looking for possible solutions to your issue. In a narrow sense, it’s that process where you sit near the whiteboard with your team, and your manager tries to squeeze ideas out of you. In the end, you have a board full of unstructured ideas, a bit of gibberish, and something no one can’t remember. Usually, the desk stays like that for weeks because it’s supposed to help. If you have ever worked in an office, you probably can relate to that description of brainstorming. However, it doesn’t have to be like that.
In a broad sense, brainstorming is just the process of finding solutions to problems. You don’t have to be an office worker to use it. When you and your friends are trying to decide together where to have dinner tonight, you may call it brainstorming too.
The thing is, like any other technique, brainstorming has its rules, especially when it comes to a team’s work and different projects. A badly chosen restaurant is one-evening trouble, while a wrong solution for a business might lead to a tremendous loss.
Let’s take a closer look at how you and your team can brainstorm and, more importantly, how to make your brainstorming successful.
The most popular online templates for brainstorming and how to use them
There are many brainstorming approaches. So, no matter what you do or what your project or purpose is, there definitely will be one for your specific needs. The first step is to find it so that you will ease the process, avoid unnecessary steps and questions, and get the most out of it.
Not all techniques are equal. Some of them may not work for you, and if so, please, don’t think that all of them won’t. Also, some of them are good if you’re in the beginning, some are good if you’ve stuck somewhere in the middle, and some will help you structure all of your achievements and make the final push.
Below you will find the most popular brainstorming techniques, from those that are good for the start to those that help you keep moving when a lot has been done already. However, please remember that each case and, most importantly, each team is unique, and sometimes you need to try a couple of them to find what will work best for you.
That technique is great for the team, who might not feel comfortable working together yet. If there’s a shy person who’s too scared to share their ideas even though they are usually great, brainwriting may help you. Or if you don’t want to turn your brainstorming session into an endless chit-chat, this technique may come in handy too.
Just give each team member a list of paper and ask them to write down three (or less or more if you want to) ideas regarding your task. Then, after a few minutes, collect the pages and start working on each together to find those worthy of further consideration and give up on those that are meaningless.
If your team works remotely, you can send emails asking them to come up with several ideas and opinions and then organize a meeting to consider the results. Brainwriting will save you time for discussion-worthy ideas.
2. Mind mapping
Mind mapping is great if you already have something to work with. It helps you organize existing ideas, connect related ones, and deepen your understanding of the current problem. Additionally, it helps you not to miss anything during the sessions.
Put the main problem or concept in the center of your mind map and provide your teammates with all the background information on the subject you possess. Now, start with sub-ideas related to your topic and write them down around the main problem. At this stage, we don’t waste time filtering ideas. All of them will be reconsidered later.
When your central topic is surrounded by many ideas and the team is done with creating new ones, review the content of your board or page and try to find the connection between what is written. It’s important to discuss everything with your teammates. Maybe someone will see something strange or interesting or produce one more fresh idea you need.
3. Lotus diagram technique or Lotus blossom technique
When you have lots of ideas but nothing is organized, the brainstorming session might turn into torment. If mind mapping seems unattractive or you’ve already tried it and got nothing, you may try this technique. A lotus diagram is another helpful brainstorming template to structure your team’s previous ideas and define what is important.
Think of the main idea/concept/question and put it in the center of your lotus diagram. Then, define 8 issues that are related to your center topic. The secret is that the issue you’re trying to resolve rarely stands alone. Going away from the center, think of 16 possible solutions to your issues. You can go further or stop at this stage. Review what you’ve got and discuss it with the team when you're done.
4. Affinity diagram technique or Affinity mapping
Sometimes your brainstorming session is so effective that you end up with tons of ideas, and you need more sessions to organize everything. That’s when an affinity diagram may help you put your developments in order. The affinity diagram is often used to summarize the initial brainstorming rather than the actual brainstorming tool.
The diagram structure allows you to categorize all your ideas so that you don’t get stuck only on a couple of standouts but analyze all of them before rejecting some. It consists of a few separate blocks. Each one is for ideas that are connected or similar.
Start with noting all the ideas your team comes up with. Put those related closer to one another or at a similar part of your whiteboard or page. When you’re done, give each category a name that will briefly yet precisely summarize its content. Now, analyze each category with your team. If there are too many categories or each is full of ideas, you may organize separate sessions for each category.
5. S.C.A.M.P.E.R techniques
Each letter in this acronym represents a unique technique to see the problem from a different point of view and stimulate your and your team’s lateral thinking. The template has 7 blocks, with the main issue in the center. When working on each block, ask your teammates to come up with the solution according to these parameters:
S – Substitute. Think about what can be changed to get a better result. Maybe the process has some blockers, or your product needs to be improved.
C – Combine. Review your ideas and think whether some can be combined into one but brilliant.
A – Adapt. Check if there’s something you can add to get a better result.
M – Modify. Check if there’s something you can change to get a better result or if your product or service will be better.
P – Put to another use. Imagine ways to use your product/service that differ from their initial purpose.
E – Eliminate. Check if there’s something in your product/service that you can remove.
R – Reverse. Think about what can be rearranged in your product/service to make it better.
6. How Now Wow matrix
Another hard but important part of ideation is deciding which idea or ideas are the best and need to be brought to life. Sometimes, during a brainstorming session, teams come up with numerous ideas but even a super huge and passionate team won’t be able to take care of them. We need all the resources available to focus on what is the most important to get the desired results. How Now Wow matrix is a template for brainstorming to help you decide what would work best now and what should wait till next time.
Let’s imagine that you’ve already generated all the ideas possible regarding your subject. Now, you need to order them on your board or template according to the next filters.
HOW. The ideas to reconsider in the future or something hard to implement right now due to lack of tools, people, etc. (usually, this block consists of the most innovative and risky ideas).
NOW. Here should be the ideas that are easy to implement now (usually, this block consists of the not-that-original and interesting ideas).
WOW. The ideas that are innovative yet possible to implement. Try to produce as many as possible.
We hope the work inside your team is built upon democratic ideas because you need to choose the concepts of every category. Sometimes people tend to choose the ideas they produce so this part might be challenging.
7. Disney creative diagram
This brainstorming session template's purpose is quite similar to the previous one. Originally used to generating and evaluating film and script ideas on Walt Disney Studios, now it’s a useful tool to evaluate your ideas from three perspectives – dreamers, realizers, and critics.
Don’t divide your team into three categories. Let the whole team think about the problem from the same perspective simultaneously.
Start with the dreamer’s point of view. Allow your team to come up with the craziest ideas without thinking about whether it’s real to implement them or not.
Then, switch to the realistic point of view and go over dreamers’ ideas to find those that may be easily implemented, attractive to customers, or generate revenue. Finally, become a critic and analyze what realists developed.
8. Reverse brainstorming technique
If traditional brainstorming sessions don’t work for your team or they are already bored with them, you may try a Reverse brainstorming template. The method is more of a trick to make your brain work in a different way. Maybe you have noticed during your brainstorming sessions that people tend to focus on the problem more than on a solution. That feature may not be that bad and allows us to see the subject from the opposite perspective.
Determine the area that needs improvement or new ideas. Now, put the problem upside down. For example, if you intend to increase sales, consider what can decrease them. Then, reverse the ideas you got one more time and think of how to bring them to life.
9. Mood board
Creating a mood board is more of a long-term preparation process for effective brainstorming. You carefully put together everything you consider important and what inspires you to come up with the ideas later. Mood boards help visualize what you want to see using rich content.
A mood board can be individual or shared within a team. However, it’s advisable to have different boards for different subjects so that won’t be too much of everything.
10. The 5-Why diagram technique
Some problems being hard to understand might turn into serious blockers. You may use a 5-Why diagram brainstorming template to figure everything out and keep moving. As you’ve already guessed, you will need to answer 5 questions to get to the heart of your problem, but first, you need to specify what you want/need to resolve.
Start with asking the broadest questions. Sometimes the answer is so obvious that it’s not, and trying to be creative and inventive, people might easily miss it.
The next question should always be the natural continuation of your previous answer. Follow the chain till you get the answer.
How to run a brainstorming session with xTiles and get the maximum from it?
Above, we went over the 10 most popular brainstorming techniques and their agenda. However, we’re not finished yet if you’re determined to get the maximum out of your team’s brainstorming.
Gather a team that would represent all departments of your company if you want to think on something broad, or gather a team of a specific department if you need to discuss a narrow subject. However, let it be people who can contribute with their experience and creativity.
Before you start the session, discuss the rules and approaches you want to take. Let there be no interruption to clarifying organizational matters.
When using one of our brainstorming templates, you can freely put all the data you need, remove it, change placement, etc. Unlike the Word brainstorming templates, accidental clumsy movement won’t ruin the whole picture.
Sometimes one session might not be enough to come up with something truly great, so save all the progress and have the document shared with your team.
We ourselves know that ideation sometimes is no easy task, and sometimes your ideas flow unstoppable. In any case, what would we be without them? So, let’s dream up ideas and push them forward, and we hope our templates will become your reliable tool in this process!