Brainstorming Techniques: 15 Creative Activities to Do Solo or as a Team
Updated: August 15, 2022
Published: August 20, 2021
We're all familiar with traditional brainstorming as a way to produce new ideas. You sit in a room with a whiteboard and work with whatever comes to mind. Maybe you play a few rounds of word association to strengthen your ideas, or pull up Google and use research to flesh them out.
But there are many alternative exercises for tackling problems and developing new ideas, both individually and in a group setting.
Ranging from structured to silly, here are the best creative brainstorming exercises and techniques to help you get your problem-solving juices flowing. This list is a modified excerpt from my guide Creative Ideation for Digital Marketers: Theory to Practice .
- Mind Mapping
- Word Banking
- S.W.O.T. Analysis
- Reverse Brainstorming
If you're trying to design a process, storyboarding can help you see where your collective understanding of a problem supports or conflicts with a proposed solution, and where more thought/research is needed. By developing a visual story to explore the problem as a narrative, your team will be able to see how ideas interact and connect to form a solution.
Sticky notes are your friend. Take a few minutes to write out your ideas as individual notes. These don't have to be complete thoughts — physically pinning up quotes, pictures, user info, and the like can help you see new relationships between different components.
Once you have a group of sticky notes to work from, start arranging them on the board as a progression: first this, then that. Organizing your ideas as a continuous series will help you see new connections and eliminate extraneous material that doesn't support your end goal.
Why This Brainstorming Technique Works
- Storyboarding allows you to see your ideas in a sequential pattern.
- You’ll be able to see an overarching overview of a new or current process — without digging too deeply into the details.
- You can start from anywhere — the beginning, middle, or end — then fill in the blanks.
How to Use It in Marketing
Storyboarding is particularly useful for marketers. With it, you can:
- Outline the sequential process of a marketing campaign from beginning to completion.
- Improve an internal process such as backlink-building by drafting specific steps.
- Storyboard a marketing video from beginning to end.
2. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a fairly common term nowadays — in fact, many types of software provide automated mind-mapping templates so you can better organize your data. Well, it also happens to be a great way to organize your ideas.
- To create a mind map for creativity purposes, write down the task or problem you're trying to solve at the center of your idea sheet (feel free to do this on your computer, but whiteboards are ideal).
- Then, expand on this problem by surrounding it with terms that better describe what you need. If your problem is low website traffic, for example, some terms to write around this phrase might be "organic traffic," "trusted content," "SEO," and "video strategy."
- Once your mind map has this first layer, add a second layer to each of your needs describing how you might be able to solve for these individual challenges. Around "SEO," you might write " topic clusters ," "dedicated SEO strategist," and "video marketing course."
Keep adding to your mind map using the steps above until you've sufficiently broken down your problem into manageable parts. It's a fantastic problem-solving technique that fosters creative answers to subjects that might otherwise seem uninspiring.
- Mind mapping allows you to start from any point and create clusters of potential processes.
- You don’t need to have an order in mind; you can prioritize later.
- You can add a myriad of topically relevant ideas as you go; with mind mapping, you never feel boxed-in.
In marketing, you can use mind mapping tools to solve problems, like in the example above. You can also use it to:
- Draft content maps for your entire blog or website. You can begin with an overarching topic, then begin creating branches for each subtopic.
- Come up with marketing campaign ideas divided by major topics and subtopics.
- Create Yes/No scenarios for placing different lead segments into specific drip campaigns.
3. Word Banking
If you assume "work banking" is a fancy term for "word association," well, you're right. But in a word banking session, what you do with the words you come up with is much more sophisticated.
While word associations often focus on pairs of words, word banking asks you to form big groups of terms that all describe just a few themes or topics. Creating word banks in a business setting can help you dismantle a project into manageable parts — kind of like a mind map.
Then, when your work bank is complete, you can retroactively form connections between the terms you came up with, and use those connections to craft ideas that are guaranteed to include all of your most important characteristics.
- Word association is a relatively natural, low-effort task — simply begin with a big idea, then begin jotting down anything that comes up for you.
- It doesn’t require you to know the when, why, or how of an idea.
- Word banking will surface gasps in your knowledge. If you find yourself stuck, it’s time to complete additional research.
Word banking is ideal for content projects and can be a precursor for more in-depth keyword research. Use word banking to:
- Surface everything you know about a topic you’re thinking of tackling in your blog or website.
- “Word vomit” blog post ideas without feeling boxed into a formal keyword research process.
- Uncover where you and your teammates may need additional training. For instance, if you choose to start a word bank for “ conversion rate optimization ” and the term “ A/B testing ” never comes up, it may be time to sign everyone up for a CRO course.
S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is essentially a process for expanding and improving upon ideas by testing and questioning them from different angles. For each letter of the mnemonic, ask yourself a related question about your project or the problem at hand:
- Substitute : What would happen to the project if we swapped X for Y?
- Combine : What would happen to the project if we combined X and Y?
- Adapt : What changes would need to be made to adapt this project to a different context?
- Modify : What could we modify to create more value on this project?
- Put to another use : What other uses or applications might this project have?
- Eliminate : What could we remove from the project to simplify it?
- Reverse : How could we reorganize this project to make it more effective?
This method forces you to approach your project or problem in unexpected ways. Each question asks you to dig a little deeper into the issue and consider new possibilities.
- S.C.A.M.P.E.R. will get you to think beyond predefined assumptions about your product or project.
- The series of “would” and “could” questions let your mind run free with minimal commitment to any actual change or alteration.
- It allows you to improve a process even if you believe the process has reached its optimal form.
While S.C.A.M.P.E.R. might seem like a brainstorming activity for product development teams, it can serve marketing teams just as well. Use it to:
- Improve a current process — such as keyword research or market research — by substituting, combining, and adapting tasks.
- Optimize the copy of a blog post or campaign by crafting hypothetical changes that could improve the piece. These changes could make it easier to “template” the piece.
- Build a drip campaign that effectively gets leads to convert by modifying and substituting certain email messages.
5. S.W.O.T. Analysis
Entrepreneurs and business leaders know exactly what a SWOT analysis is. Well, it also happens to be a helpful brainstorming exercise.
S.W.O.T. stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. When launching a company, it's your textbook starting point (literally — there isn't a single business school textbook in the world that doesn't have a version of it).
But while a company's founder might use a SWOT analysis to create his or her business model, brainstormers can use the same diagram to better organize their ideas.
Your SWOT analysis doesn't have to be all that complicated when brainstorming. In fact, it can simply be four columns on a whiteboard during your average "shout it out" ideas meeting. When thinking of a new logo design, for instance, ask yourself what you like most about your current logo (strengths). What do you dislike about it (weaknesses)? What should it have more of (opportunities)? What other company logos should you be mindful of (threats)?
- A S.W.O.T analysis will effectively put you in problem-solving mode before problems ever arise.
- It takes into account competitive advantages and disadvantages — a consideration that often comes long after brainstorming.
- You’ll get a much more detailed and comprehensive overview of what can be improved.
S.W.O.T analyses are typically used in business and entrepreneurship, but marketers can use it to:
- Improve a social or search engine campaign before launch and find out where you may have opportunities or be facing threats.
- Create a much better project plan for clients by analyzing the project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Audit an existing process within the team, such as handoffs to sales or content creation.
6. Zero Draft
The Zero Draft is an ideation technique often used by writers and is essentially a form of focused free-writing. For marketers and agency professionals, it can help focus the first stages of a new project by establishing what you currently know and getting your initial ideas out of your brain and onto paper.
Taking your central theme or topic:
- Write down everything you currently know about the subject.
- Write down what you need or want to know about the subject, but don't currently know.
- Reflect on why the subject is important.
- Add anything else that takes your fancy — this is a chance to get whatever's floating around in your head out into the world.
The Zero Draft method is all about getting everything you can think of relating to your topic down on paper, so don't be concerned if it looks messy and unfocused. The goal is just to get past the initial block that often plagues creative professionals in the early stages of a new project.
- The Zero Draft method has minimal constraints while allowing you to make sense of your ideas in coherent sentences.
- It’s especially a good fit for those who like to write their ideas down.
- As opposed to a whiteboard session, Zero Drafting allows you to document your thoughts in a more permanent format.
Zero Drafting has ample uses in marketing. Use it to:
- Draft a blog post, article, or page from start to finish without stopping.
- Create a preliminary outline for a marketing video or video advertisement.
- Map the sequence of a new client project or internal project.
7. Reverse Brainstorming
In certain corporations and government entities, data security is the highest priority. So high, in fact, that these organizations have been known to hire hackers — many of whom have committed internet crimes — to hack their systems and find out where the weaknesses are.
This "reverse" approach to security, wherein you hack your own company, is considered one of the best ways to secure a server from intrusion. And for us, it's the inspiration behind this fourth brainstorming technique.
When you reverse brainstorm, you essentially work to create problems rather than solutions. “Why on Earth would you want to do that?” you might ask. Creating problems teaches you what not to do so you're more intuitive to the needs of your project. Think of it like hacking your company to find out where the weaknesses are.
Say, for example, you want to drive awareness to a new product. As a marketer, you have many promotional channels at your disposal, but you don't know how to use them or where to start. In a reverse brainstorming session, you might come up with the following:
- Avoid hyperlinks to the product's purchase page
- Don't tweet about the product
- Criticize the features of your product
Obviously, these are all horrible ideas if your goal is to promote the product. But, take the reverse of these ideas, and you've effectively created three excellent starting points for a supportive campaign: Link to the product in a series of blog posts, develop a Twitter campaign around the product, and identify specific features of the product that prospects would be most interested in reading or hearing about.
- Reverse brainstorming tells you what to avoid from the get-go.
- It’s easier to start with what to not to do rather than what to do — the latter of which can make us feel stuck.
- It helps you avoid decision fatigue early on in the ideation process.
As referenced above, you can use reverse brainstorming to come up with actions for promoting a new product. You can also use it to:
- Come up with the top worst clients you could attract to your company, which would tell you the types of leads you should pursue.
- Create the worst verbiage you could use in your ads, which would tell you the type of tone and wording you should use in your campaigns.
- Outline what failure looks like for your team, which you could then use to come up with new goals and objectives.
Are you brainstorming with your group or team? While all of the activities above could be used in a group setting, there are a few exercises that are made specifically for groups. Let’s take a look at the ones you could use below.
Group Brainstorming Techniques
1. group sketching.
You don't have to be an artist or a designer to benefit from sketching. Visual thinking can help to trigger and develop ideas that discussion and writing might otherwise leave unturned. Similar to brain-writing, group sketching involves participants building on each other's ideas.
Each member of your team will sketch an image related in a central way to a concept, idea, or topic you want to explore further. Each sketch is then passed to someone else, who sketches another related image on the same piece of paper. This is repeated multiple times around the group. The final images are then reviewed and discussed with the aim of discovering connections that individuals hadn't spotted on their own.
2. Brain Netting
Creative exercises and ideas meetings always go better the more people you have in the room. Unfortunately, that means remote employees might not be solicited for their input as much as they should be. Brain netting is the act of connecting with folks electronically to make sure everyone can offer their input and feedback on a project.
Brain netting doesn't just have to be a group phone call, though. Company messaging platforms like Slack are the perfect way to get everyone into a chatroom to spill their ideas. As ideas are submitted, each chatroom member can vote for their favorites and combine the best qualities of multiple concepts.
3. Questioning Assumptions
We all carry assumptions with us — assumptions about what’s possible, what isn't possible, what people want, what will work, and what won't. This exercise forces us to challenge these assumptions and put everything on the table.
Draw up a list of all the assumptions you can think of about your current project — true or not — and discuss the list as a group, questioning each one. Doing this at various stages in your campaign development can spark fresh ideas, as well as identify knowledge gaps.
This technique encourages your team to let imaginations run wild. Ask participants to dream up the most unattainable, extreme, and impractical solutions they can think of to a given problem. Create a list of a few dozen wishes pertaining to the task at hand.
Focusing on a selection of wishes, consider and discuss the ideas in detail, with the aim of triggering new but more realistic concepts to pursue. What makes them so impossible? How can that idea be scaled down? Which features of that wish could we integrate into this other approach? You might be surprised to discover applicable, real-world solutions among your team's wildest wishes.
5. Alter-Egos / Heroes
This is a fun exercise where small groups imagine how they would go about solving a given problem if their team were led by a famous character, fictional or real. How would Cat Woman go about positioning your brand as a thought leader in virtual reality? What would Steve Jobs do to improve your latest communications package? How would Don Draper get your core messages across to millennials?
You can either choose someone you think embodies the right qualities for the job to help develop your vision, or someone at the opposite end of that scale, to explore less conventional ideas.
6. Six Thinking Hats
There's a whole host of problem-solving exercises and tools that help participants to put themselves into the shoes of another. This particular tool was invented by Edward de Bono, a psychologist, author, and consultant who pioneered the technique in his 1985 book Six Thinking Hats . The method involves breaking down ideas into six areas of thought:
- Logic : The facts.
- Optimism : The value and the benefits.
- Devil’s Advocate : The difficulties and the dangers.
- Emotion : Feelings and intuitions.
- Creativity : Possibilities and new ideas.
- Management : Making sure that the rules of the hat are observed.
When approaching a new problem or project, have each member of your team put on one of these different "hats" for the discussion. Each "hat" represents a unique set of priorities and perspectives that will help focus your discussion and consider the project from a wide variety of angles.
For example, if you're wearing the "Devil's Advocate" hat, it's your job to consider the project's limitations and challenges. It may feel uncomfortable at first to temporarily adopt a very narrow form of thinking, but the extremes can help teams fully explore a project.
7. Forced Connections
This exercise involves bringing together ideas that serve very different needs or interests to form a new concept. You see this sort of thinking all the time in products like the Apple Watch, the Swiss Army knife, smartphones, or even sofa beds.
To put this method into practice, bring a bag of random items to your next meeting, or draw up two lists of unrelated items on the board. Ask team members to pick two or more items and explore different ways they can be connected. This technique can produce some silly results, but it's ultimately a helpful way of getting your team out of a creative rut.
In this exercise, participants simply write down a few rough ideas for solving a particular problem on a piece of paper. Each piece of paper is then passed on to someone else, who reads it silently and adds their own ideas to the page. This process is repeated until everyone has had a chance to add to each original piece of paper. The notes can then be gathered, ready for discussion.
The big advantage of brain-writing is that it makes sure everybody is given the opportunity to have their thoughts and ideas thoroughly considered by the group. This avoids the loudest or most extroverted people unintentionally dominating the sessions.
For some teams, brainstorming might come easily — they might even have a process in place. For other teams, it’s not as easy, even if they have a handful of activities they know they’d like to use. Below, I’ll cover how you can get the most out of your brainstorming session.
How to Brainstorm Ideas
- Focus on quantity over quality.
- Selectively apply constraints to keep the session focused.
- Don’t prune ideas as you brainstorm.
- Never finalize or commit during the brainstorming session.
- Look to other sources for inspiration.
- Use a whiteboard (and take pictures of each whiteboarding session).
- Take breaks.
1. Focus on quantity over quality.
Brainstorming is all about “vomiting” any and all ideas you have — no matter how silly they may seem. (And trust me, there are no silly ideas in a brainstorming session.) For that reason, don’t worry about coming up with quality ideas and instead focus on quantity.
Write down anything that you or your team have come up with. What may seem implausible now may be what your team chooses to pursue later.
2. Selectively apply constraints to keep the session focused.
While you should come up with as many ideas as possible, you shouldn’t run all over the place, crossing topics that are irrelevant or that are unattainable for various reasons. Consider creating budgetary constraints, establishing a timeline, and putting up guardrails that will keep your brainstorming session in line with your goals.
For instance, if your budget for a new marketing campaign is $2,000, but you know you don’t want to spend it on pay-per-click ads, you can spend your brainstorming power on other avenues.
3. Don’t prune ideas as you brainstorm.
Resist the urge to prune ideas as you come up with them. Even if you think you’ve got a much better idea at hand, let that old idea sit there — you might use it later on another project, or even in the second phase of your current project. Ideas that seem obsolete can also act as guardrails later on.
4. Never finalize or commit during the brainstorming session.
When you get an excellent idea during your brainstorming session, you might feel tempted to commit to it and set it aside, then continue brainstorming other ideas. The problem with that approach is that it limits you considerably, because now you’re brainstorming around that one idea rather than brainstorming freely. Without knowing it, you’ll anchor your brainstorming on that idea to make it come to fruition.
The goal of brainstorming, of course, is to finalize one final concept. But until you’ve tackled the concept from all possible angles, don’t commit to a certain idea until you’ve laid out all of the routes you could take.
5. Look to other sources for inspiration.
When you get stuck, it’s imperative to look at the competition to get inspiration — especially in marketing. What are they doing that you could imitate? Which ideas could you bounce off of? Even the most productive brainstorming sessions will come to a halt at one point, and inspiration will go a long way in jumpstarting your session again.
You might even print out certain images, articles, and campaigns to keep your team inspired as you work.
6. Use a whiteboard (and take pictures of each whiteboarding session).
Using a whiteboard might seem like the stereotypical brainstorming route, but it has its merits: It allows your team to get any and all ideas out in a seemingly impermanent way. No idea is too silly to write on a whiteboard because you can easily erase it.
Of course, I wouldn’t suggest erasing your sessions; take photos of your finished whiteboards to keep all of your ideas on record. Remember to pair whiteboarding with a creative brainstorming exercise. Instead of writing “[Topic] Brainstorming Session” up top and letting anyone chime in, create a chart for a S.W.O.T analysis, or list different alter-egos to detail how they’d promote your product.
7. Take breaks.
If you want to stay productive during your brainstorming session, it’s imperative to take breaks. Let your team take a walk, scroll through social media, or go out for a bite. Do brainstorming in short bursts, or do it in long blocks. Whatever you do, schedule breaks for your team to ensure everyone’s minds are as clear as possible during the process.
Use Creative Brainstorming Techniques to Ideate Better
Traditional brainstorming is dead. Your team no longer has to sit in a circle in silence while you try to write ideas on an empty whiteboard. Use the above exercises to come up with powerful marketing projects, advertisements, and campaigns that empower your team and your company to grow better.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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7 Brainstorming Techniques for Writers
Advertising executive Alex F. Osborn was the first to invent formal brainstorming techniques. He became frustrated by his team’s ability to generate creative ideas for their campaigns.
He launched group creativity sessions that allowed team members to suggest spontaneous new ideas without criticism. Participants “used the brain to storm a problem,” and dubbed their gatherings as “brainstorming sessions.”
That was in 1939.
Since then, brainstorming has become a standard part of the creative process both for teams and for individuals. As for writers, we use brainstorming techniques for two key reasons:
- When you have no (or few) ideas. The blank page mocks you and you’re drawing a blank. Or you’re stressed out, wiped out, or worn out and you need inspiration. When you’ve got nothing – or very little – you can use brainstorming techniques to gather a pool of ideas for content and generate a large number of ideas in a short amount of time. Another scenario you may use brainstorming is …
- When you have too many ideas. Brainstorming techniques are helpful when you need to dump the contents in your brain onto the page or screen. Later, you’ll put the chaos into a semblance of order. But at the start, brainstorming helps you “get it out.”
1. Lists or bullets
In brainstorming’s simplest version, jot down ideas as they come to you. Use words or short phrases. Then you can review your list and choose one idea to develop. You can expand upon that idea by using yet another brainstorming technique such as free writing, mind mapping, or star bursting.
For instance, let’s say you want to write an article about butterfly gardens. Your brainstorming list might look like this:
- Butterfly garden plants
- Butterfly garden design
- Butterfly garden book
- Butterfly garden plans
- Famous butterfly gardens
- How to build a butterfly garden
2. Free writing
Like lists and bullets, brainstorm with free writing as thoughts come to you, but do so in narrative form. Set a timer (“I’ll write for 15 minutes”) or space limiter (“I’ll write until I’ve got 500 words”). Keep writing even if you don’t feel you’re saying anything of worth. You’ll end up with filler but also some valid points and maybe even a diamond or two in the rough.
3. Mind mapping
A mind map is a diagram that helps you organize information. It’s a particularly useful tool to help you do a “brain dump” of ideas. I used a mind map to create several of my book outlines.
To create a mind map, first write your main topic – your “central concept” – in the center of the paper, whiteboard, or screen. Moving out from the center, creating branches that connect ideas to that central concept and then its subsequent sub-concepts. In other words, cluster together the terms and phrases that seem related. The linked clusters create a “map” or “web” that organizes ideas into groups.
4. Star bursting
This variation on the six standard journalistic questions (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How) is useful because it’s visual. Start with your main topic in the center of page. Draw a 6-point star.
Fill each point of the star with one of the questions (Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?) Then, answer the questions in relation to your main topic. You may end up with plenty of ideas in one or two points of the star but none about another. The starburst results can give you a clue about what angle to develop (for those star points with substantial content) or what research to pursue (for those star points lacking content). Using our butterfly garden example, your brainstorming star burst might include:
- Who is an expert in butterfly gardens?
- What kinds of flowers are grown in a butterfly garden?
- Where can I see a butterfly garden?
- When are butterfly gardens in full bloom?
- Why are butterflies attracted to certain plants?
- How can I build a butterfly garden?
5. SWOT Analysis
Borrow this well-known strategic planning technique from marketing and project planners to brainstorm your main topic’s S trengths, W eaknesses, O pportunities, and T hreats. A SWOT Analysis is the ultimate “pros and cons” list. Start with your main topic at the top of the page. List strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in a four-part grid or list format. For example:
Strengths of a growing butterfly garden
- Attracts wildlife
- Is beautiful
Weaknesses of growing a butterfly garden
- Takes research to decide what to plant
- Takes expertise to design
- Takes expense to start
- Takes time to maintain
Opportunities in growing a butterfly garden
- Get to spend time outside
- Get to meet other wildlife enthusiasts
- Get to share plants with other gardeners
- Get the opportunity to create a habitat for wildlife
Threats in growing a butterfly garden
- It can attract rodents, pests, varmints
- Requires water in a drought
- Can become a financial and time burden
- Can become an eyesore if not maintained
6. Word Association
This fruitful brainstorming technique can generate substantial numbers of new content ideas. Use these tips:
- Start with one or two words. You can use your main topic if you’ve got one.
- Write down the first word that come to mind.
- Look at your new word and write down the next that comes to mind. Repeat!
- Give yourself a time limit or a word limit.
- Sift back through your results to solidify ideas.
Word banks are a close cousin to word association. These “word collections” are compiled around a particular theme or replace an entry in a thesaurus. A classic word bank is a list of words that can replace the word, “said,” as in spoke, uttered, articulated, declared, answered, replied, exclaimed – and so forth.
Word banks can spark ideas and give you solutions. Your “butterfly garden” brainstorm can yield words like moth, habitats, life stages, caterpillar, monarch, nectar, pollinator – just to start.
This technique looks at the topic from six different points of view, just as a cube has six sides.
- Describe it: what is it?
- Compare it: what is it like/unlike?
- Associate it: what does it make you think of?
- Analyze it: what parts make it up?
- Apply it: how do you use it?
- Argue it: how are you in favor of it or agree with it? How do you oppose it or disagree with it?
Two Principles to Follow When You’re Brainstorming
Brainstorming can jumpstart any writing project. But we writers are notoriously hard on ourselves, even when conducting a writing exercise. With that in mind, be sure to put two key principles into practice when you’re brainstorming – no matter which brainstorming techniques you use.
First, don’t censure yourself. Write down every idea that comes to mind, no matter how inconsequential or silly or odd it may seem. Do not judge or skip any idea. You can decide later which ones are useful and which are not. But if you judge now, you may miss an imaginative idea or a solid connection.
And don’t edit yourself. Write down the ideas as they come. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or even clarity. You can rewrite or edit later. The goal, for now, is to accumulate ideas or get them down on paper.
Start with one idea. Burst it or free write it or list it or cube it. For now, have fun and let the words flow. The work of weeding through and organizing can be saved for later – when you’ve accumulated plenty of fresh ideas.
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16 Brainstorming Techniques to Boost Your Writing Skills
Have you ever wondered how writers become famous? Creativity is the key to their success, regardless of the genre in which they write. Many have prosperous careers because of the unconventional approaches they use in their work. Brainstorming, which often combines disparate ideas to reach innovative conclusions, is an important part of the creative process.
This article presents a collection of techniques and strategies to boost your creative thinking. Here you will find step-by-step instructions on how to engage in a brainstorming session. In addition, we’ve provided a list of the top free apps to ensure your success.
❓ What Is Brainstorming?
- 📝 Brainstorming Techniques for Writing
- 👣 Brainstorming Session: 6 Steps
- 📱 Free Apps
Brainstorming is a method used to find a creative solution to a complex problem. The first step in the brainstorming process is to identify the problem. The next is to generate as many ideas as possible, no matter how fantastic or strange, which could provide a solution. Finally, those ideas that offer the most creative way to solve the problem are selected and used.
In the 19th century, the term “brain-storm” was used to refer to a mental disturbance. A century later, in the 1940s, a similar word was coined for a different purpose. Alex Osborn, an advertising executive, developed a system to facilitate the production of ideas. He called it “brainstorming.” Some business executives believed that the term held medical connotations and was potentially offensive. They suggested using different terms, like “cloud bursting” and “thought shower,” but none of them caught on.
Brainstorming is an informal way to arrange a business meeting. It also can be used for personal purposes, especially by creative people. The main goal is to avoid criticizing or rewarding any of the ideas.
How Will Brainstorming Make Me a Better Writer?
Our society has trained our brains so much that thinking outside the box becomes more and more challenging the older we get.
If you are a writer, brainstorming is the best technique you can use in your work. It silences self-criticism and traditional thinking . Use a voice recorder or a pen and piece of paper to keep track of your ideas. Do not judge whether your thoughts are good or bad. Just record the flow of ideas.
There are six stages of writing. You start by generating ideas for your topic. Then, you plan your work, make an outline, and create content ideas. After this step, you usually face writer’s block. This is the most challenging time, but when you overcome it, you can write and finish your project. Brainstorming can help you at each of these stages. Below, you will find 15 techniques to help you along the entire writing process.
Writing is a creative activity, and brainstorming is the perfect tool to help you improve your skills. For this process to become even more productive, apart from following the tips below, we also recommend you to check out our essay database . It’s a perfect place to find information and sources of reference for any paper you’re about to write.
For many reasons, conventional thinking is viewed as the most productive type of thinking. But for creative jobs, this often proves to be quite wrong. The value of artists, writers, poets, and musicians lies in their uniqueness. It has been proven that individual brainstorming sessions produce more valuable results than group sessions. One explanation might be that when you work by yourself, you’re not afraid of how others will judge your ideas. On your own, you are free and more creative.
The individual approach is more efficient with simple problems and broad ideas. But group brainstorming is perfect when a complex problem is at stake. Sophisticated issues require the input of many different perspectives. For example, during audit planning, a manager’s opinion is only a small part of the brainstorming session. Each employee should have a chance to propose possible solutions.
📝 16 Brainstorming Techniques for Every Stage of Writing
Some topics are so difficult that you could spend hours on end trying to think of something special to write. Complicated philosophical essays can also be challenging. Sometimes, a topic may offer an overwhelming number of ways to complete the assignment, but none seems appropriate. In all of these cases, a good brainstorming session is usually the first stop on your path to success.
We have selected the 16 best techniques to generate ideas at each stage of writing a paper of any length. Fifteen minutes of effort at every stage can save you hours of fruitless thinking.
Stage 1: Generating Topic Ideas
Before you begin writing, you need to identify your topic. This decision will narrow the field of your research. Here are five techniques to help you.
This brainstorming game works well in groups. For instance, your teacher might assign a task to write an essay on internet addiction. Her preference is that no one in the class has the same topic.
- The first person writes down three topic ideas and passes the paper to the next student.
- The second person uses the topics already listed to trigger their own ideas and adds another three.
- This process repeats until all members of the class have added three topics to the list.
- Three to five minutes for each person is enough. You can make several rounds around the group if necessary.
- When you are done, cross out the topics that repeat or don’t apply.
- Share the remaining topics with the members of the brainstorming group.
This method offers the best way to avoid censoring ideas .
Have a lot of paper on hand (freewriting can take up a lot of space). Do not think about what to write next, and don’t judge your thoughts as good or bad. The only requirements are:
- Write in sentences and paragraphs.
- Keep on writing. If you don’t have any new ideas, write something like, “I am waiting for an idea, and it will come” as many times as you need before a new idea does come.
This exercise takes about 20 minutes, or you can continue until you feel the topic is ready.
The general purpose of essay brainstorming is to free your mind from stress and improve its performance. What could combat stress better than meditation ? This technique is known for improving the quality of your sleep, focus, and even academic performance.
It also helps writers find the answers they need. While meditating, they remove distractive thoughts and focus on what matters.
4. The criminal technique
In the words of the wise Pablo Picasso, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”
This method is perfect for selecting a title for your writing. Search for about fifteen texts similar to the one you have to write. Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of their titles. Then, combine the good parts into your own original title. Voila!
5. The worst idea challenge
Try this when nothing else has been successful. Write down the worst topic ideas you can think of. You will be surprised, but some of them will not be as bad as you thought in the beginning. Our brain is primed for conventional wisdom and critical thinking, and these are the last things you need when trying to engage in creative activities.
Stage 2: Planning Your Work
Congratulations on coming up with a list of topics that perfectly match your assignment! But now, you have to choose just one. At this stage, you need to plan how and where you will search for information to include in your paper. SWOT analysis is a great tool to help you.
6. SWOT analysis
This technique is traditionally used to evaluate the strong and weak points of a company, but we can also use it to assess ideas for creative purposes. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. To evaluate the feasibility of your topic, juxtapose its strengths and opportunities with its weaknesses and threats. If the latter outweighs the former, choose another topic.
Stage 3: Outlining
This is often the most hated stage of writing, both among students and copywriters. Still, you’ll be thankful that your outline is so structured and detailed when you proceed to the writing phase. These two techniques can sweeten the pill.
7. Clustering/idea mapping
Draw a picture of all the ideas you have on the chosen subject. This technique is a great way to establish the relationships between problems, their causes, and consequences.
- Put your main idea or the possible thesis statement at the center of the paper.
- Write down related issues and draw connecting lines between them.
- Add problems, hypotheses, and facts that contribute to these issues.
- When you’re done, you will have a detailed diagram to help you develop any argument on your topic.
8. Topic association
Did you play the word association game as a child? This technique will help you generate and structure multiple ideas.
- Use short phrases or single words.
- Start with the topic word in the center.
- Write down sub-topics around it. Their relation should be general-to-specific, not cause-and-effect, like in idea mapping.
- Make another row of sub-sub-topics, and so on.
Stage 4: Generating Content Ideas
When your outline is ready, you need to produce those minor content details that make up a compelling paper. Although all of the above techniques can help create content ideas, here are several brainstorming techniques that offer specific benefits at this stage.
9. Reverse brainstorming
This is a useful tool for essays that need to offer a solution to a problem. In this case, the brainstorming procedure is used in reverse. Think of something that could cause or aggravate the given problem. The worse the consequences, the better! Repeat this step until you have brainstormed a complete disaster. Then, begin to examine how to eliminate those problems.
10. The Five Whys
This technique will bring you to the root of any issue. Think of a problem, ask yourself why it occurred, and write down the answer. Then, identify the cause of the last thing you wrote down. Continue the same sequence five times (or more, if needed).
- Why did the boat sink? Because the engine failed.
- Why did the engine fail? Because it overheated.
- Why did it overheat? Etc.
11. Role Storming
The method works best in a group, but you can brainstorm on your own for your writing purposes. Put yourself in the shoes of a person whose problem is discussed in your paper. If the topic is child obesity, think about the experiences the affected children and their parents might go through. If it is domestic violence, take on the roles of the victim, offender, and bystander. Empathy helps us see the same situation from different points of view.
12. Figure storming (an excellent idea for a historical project)
Choose a historical or fictional figure whose life, actions, and views are familiar to you. Imagine that you are Albert Einstein , Steve Jobs , or Thomas Edison , and that someone has asked you how to tackle a certain problem. What would you, as a great intellectual, suggest? We often lack clarity and assertiveness. Let these figures (and many more, thanks to our rich history) assist you.
13. Question everything
The name of the technique is self-explanatory, but the following example will make it more accessible. Question every single aspect of the topic you discuss, and you will discover new ideas.
Topic: The pros and cons of online education.
Questions: Are there any pros of online education? What is online education? Who cares about the problems of online education? Is the issue even worthy of consideration?
14. Pros and cons (excellent for argumentative and persuasive texts)
You have probably never noticed it, but you use this method every day. You weigh the value and price of any purchase before paying for it. You consider whether to stay in college or leave when you are offered an exciting job before graduation. Write down the available options (they can be more than two). Then, make a list of their strong and weak points. It will help you decide which argument to adhere to in an argumentative text.
Stage 5: Overcoming Writer’s Block
We all have a fear of a blank page. Even when you have an outline and a list of creative ideas, it can be difficult to begin writing. This is a common problem with perfectionists: they want everything to be perfect from the start. To overcome this block, use freestorming.
Freestorming is very similar to freewriting, which was discussed in the section on generating topic ideas. The difference is that with freestorming, you do not need to give yourself an arbitrary time limit. Take as much time as you need and write whatever comes to your mind on the subject. You are not just limited to topic generation now, so you can make the brainstorming experience more relaxed.
Stage 6: Writing
All the techniques above have probably generated so many ideas that you most likely have to choose which ones to include in your text. Another issue you may face now is selecting the right words. For that, the technique below will come in handy.
16. Word banks
To avoid repeating yourself, make a list of five to ten of the most common words in your text. To diversify your writing, find synonyms and use them throughout your paper.
👣 Organize a Great Brainstorming Session in 6 Steps
Brainstorming is the best method to search for a creative or strategic solution. It allows a group of people to accumulate a great number of ideas in a short time. But without proper organization, this opportunity for teamwork can be controlled by a few leaders, while the rest keep quiet. To make it a fair game that benefits each member, everyone should know and adhere to the rules.
Step 1: Demonstrate the Specific Problem
The person who organizes the session should make sure that all the participants have a clear understanding of the task. For example, it could be finding a solution to a problem, coming up with a new product or campaign, improving an existing solution, or defining new directions of research.
The following procedure will help you avoid any unwanted issues:
- State a clear, short question that embodies the entire problem.
- Establish boundaries for brainstorming ideas. These limitations will make the session more productive. For example: When does the research project need to be completed? What is the maximum amount of money that can be invested in the new product?
- Try to keep the limits to a minimum so that you can have a broader range of solutions.
Step 2: Establish the Context and Definitions
When a business project or research project involves a large group of people, knowledge distribution tends to be uneven, and the leaders usually know more than the rest. Everyone will benefit if this gap is decreased. These questions will help you equalize the knowledge between all the members:
- What do the participants know about the context?
- What else do they need to know to be productive thinkers?
- What are the key terms everyone should understand in the same way?
Step 3: Choose a Facilitator
It is important that each participant knows the main rule: there is no room for criticism or skepticism. The participants must give free rein to their imagination. They need to pick up each other’s ideas and develop them, supplementing them with their own insights. The facilitator is the one who keeps an eye on these “formalities:”
- They make sure everyone makes a contribution.
- They prevent anyone from dominating the session.
- They keep the participants focused.
- They do not generate ideas but combine them to keep the session moving.
Step 4: Collect the Right People
Be aware that the presence of some people can be detrimental to the session. Effective brainstorming needs people who are equally invested in the problem question. These rules can save your session from a disaster:
- Select three to eight people.
- Make sure some of them are experts. They will check every idea for viability.
- The other part of the group should be non-experts (i.e., workers or researchers from a neighboring domain). Experts are limited by their knowledge, and it is harder for them to think outside the box. Non-experts will ask silly questions entailing unconventional thinking.
- Try to select members from different backgrounds, age groups, and cultures. Diversity is your purpose!
Step 5: Plan the Session
It is helpful to prepare this point in a group handout. We suggest the following schedule:
- 20 minutes to set out the problem, its limitations, context, and definitions;
- 30 minutes for generating the options and new ideas;
- 20 minutes for sorting and discussing the brainstorming results; and
- 10 minutes to wrap up the session.
Step 6: Carry out the Session
There are multiple exercises, games, and techniques for successful brainstorming. Many of them were given above. But if you want to make it quick and simple, this procedure will do:
- The facilitator provides sticky notes to each member.
- They write down their ideas.
- These papers are put together in a place visible to everyone (a table or whiteboard).
- The facilitator groups them into several categories.
- Any new ideas are welcome on extra notes.
- The members vote for the best ideas and put them aside.
- Special attention should be given to the most innovative solutions.
- The facilitator summarizes the results and ends the session.
📱 Top 10 Free Brainstorming Apps
It is the XIX century, and brainstorming sessions can be held across continents. Moreover, free software can help you arrange new ideas and merge or compare them. If you are wondering how to innovate in groups or on your own, these apps can make you an expert brainstormer.
Brainstorming is a beautiful process in which a group of people with different experiences, views, and expertise unite to create something new. We hope that our advice and tips will enhance your creativity as a writer and a team player. If you have been a member or facilitator in a brainstorming group, share your know-how in the comments below.
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29 brainstorming techniques: effective ways to spark creativity
Bright ideas don’t come as easily as flicking on a light.
When it’s up to one individual to dream up a solution, it can be time-consuming and cause a lot of pressure. And when it comes to a group of people tasked with solving a problem, ideas might clash. Not to mention, everyone has a preferred method for their creative madness, making it difficult to get every team members’ wheels turning in the same direction.
That’s where brainstorming techniques come in. These techniques provide structure for brainstorming sessions, ignite creativity across all brainstormers, and ensure your ideas come to fruition. And luckily, there are lots of effective brainstorming techniques to choose from.
What is brainstorming?
Here’s a general brainstorming definition: it’s an approach taken by an individual or team to solve a problem or generate new ideas for the improvement of a product, organization, or strategy.
No matter your preferred method, most brainstorming techniques involve three steps:
Discuss and critique the ideas
Choose which ideas to execute
Every brainstorming technique also involves the same ingredients. All you need is an individual or group of people, a problem to solve or an opportunity to address, and time.
The golden rule of all brainstorming sessions is quantity over quality. The more ideas you have, the better your chances are that one will be worthy of execution. For these reasons, especially in group brainstorming sessions, be sure all team members check their criticisms at the door and let it be known that the only bad ideas are no ideas.
Of course, not every brainstorming session will go off without a hitch. Some common brainstorming challenges include:
Unbalanced conversations, sometimes due to extroverts dominating discussions
The anchoring effect, meaning brainstormers cling to the first few ideas shared and don’t move on to others
Awkward silences, which often occur when participants are not prepared
Perhaps you’ve experienced some of these uncomfortable brainstorming sessions yourself. Thankfully, there are plenty of tried-and-true, and also some unorthodox, brainstorming techniques and tools that tackle just these issues.
Analytic brainstorming techniques
When you need to look at an idea from all angles or vet a problem thoroughly, analytic brainstorming techniques might be worth implementing. Consider the following brainstorming methods and tools to generate and qualify ideas.
A visual brainstorming technique, starbursting should be used once you or your team of brainstormers has homed in on a single idea. To begin starbursting, put an idea on the middle of a whiteboard and draw a six-point star around it. Each point will represent a question:
Consider every question and how it might pertain to your idea, such as, “Who will want to buy this product?” or, “When will we need to launch this program?” This will help you explore scenarios or roadblocks you hadn’t considered before.
Best for: large group brainstorms, vetting ideas thoroughly
2. The five whys, a.k.a. why analysis
Similar to starbursting, the five whys brainstorming technique helps you evaluate the strength of an idea. Challenge yourself to ask “why” questions about a topic or idea at least five times and consider what new problems you surface—and, importantly, note how you can address them. To help organize your thoughts, consider using a flowchart or fishbone diagram in hand with this brainstorming technique.
Best for: individual and group brainstorms, vetting ideas thoroughly
3. SWOT analysis
You might be familiar with SWOT analysis as it relates to strategic planning , and you might also be surprised to know that this concept can also be applied as a brainstorming exercise to help qualify an idea. The notion? Discuss the following aspects of your topic to determine whether it’s worth executing:
Strengths : how does the idea dominate or stand out from competitors?
Weakness : are there any flaws in the idea that could jeopardize its execution?
Opportunities : what else can you capitalize on based on this idea?
Threats : what are potential downfalls that could arise if the idea is launched?
4. How Now Wow
The How Now Wow brainstorming technique is all about categorizing ideas based on how unique they are and how easy they are to implement. Once you’ve collected several ideas, either individually or from team members, talk through where they fall in the How Now Wow spectrum:
How ideas are ideas that are original but not executable.
Now ideas are unoriginal ideas that are easily executable.
Wow ideas are never-been-pitched before ideas that are also easy to implement.
Obviously, you want as many “Wow” ideas as possible since these are executable but also because they might set you apart from competitors or dispel monotony in a company. To help organize your ideas, consider using a matrix of four squares with difficulty weighted on the Y-axis and innovation on the X-axis.
Best for: individual and group brainstorms, homing in on an executable solution
5. Drivers analysis
Just as the name implies, driver analysis is a brainstorming technique that analyzes the drivers or “causes” of a problem. To use this brainstorming technique, simply keep asking yourself or your team of brainstormers: “What’s driving [insert problem]?” and then, “What’s driving [insert answer to the previous question]?” Similar to why analysis, the deeper you dig into a problem, the more well-vetted it will be and the more confident you will be in executing solutions for those problems.
6. Mind mapping
Another visual brainstorming technique, mind mapping addresses the anchoring effect—a common brainstorming challenge where brainstormers fixate on the first ideas instead of coming up with new ones. Mind mapping does this by using the first idea to inspire other ideas.
You’ll need a large piece of paper or whiteboard to do this. Begin by writing down a topic and then drawing lines connecting tangential ideas to it. This essentially helps you paint a picture of your topic at hand and what might impact its execution or even expedite it.
Best for: individual and group brainstorms, visual thinkers
7. Gap filling, a.k.a. gap analysis
When you’re struggling with how to execute an idea, that’s where gap filling comes in—to address the obstacles standing in your way. Begin by starting with a statement of where you are and then a statement of where you want to be. For example, “Our company creates smart watches; we want to expand our portfolio to also include fitness trackers.”
It’s worth writing these out on a large piece of paper or a whiteboard for all of your brainstormers to see, perhaps using a flowchart or mind map to do so. Then, list obstacles that are preventing you from getting where you want to be and work through solutions for each of them. By the end of your brainstorming session, you should have a clearer plan of how to get where you want to be.
Best for: individual and group brainstorms, visual thinkers, honing in on an executable solution
Quiet async brainstorming techniques
Best for businesses that are crunched for time or teams with more introverted individuals, these quiet brainstorming techniques allow brainstormers to contribute ideas on their own time and often anonymously. Look to the following methods to get your creative juices flowing, especially for remote teams with frequent virtual meetings .
8. Brainwriting, a.k.a. slip writing
A nonverbal and in-person brainstorming technique, brainwriting addresses the brainstorming challenge of unbalanced conversations head-on. That’s because it requires participation and teamwork from every brainstormer, beginning with each person writing down three ideas relating to a topic on three separate slips of paper. Then everyone passes their ideas to the right or left and their neighbor builds on those ideas, adding bullet points and considerations.
The slips of paper continue to be passed around the table until they’ve made it all the way around. Then, the brainstorm facilitator can digest all of the ideas themselves, or the brainstormers can discuss each idea out loud and determine what’s worth pursuing. Pro tip: limit this brainstorming technique to no more than 10 people to not be overwhelmed with ideas or time constraints.
Best for: group brainstorms and introverted team members
9. Collaborative brainwriting
You can think of collaborative brainwriting like a herd of cows grazing in a field, except it’s brainstormers grazing on ideas throughout a week, anonymously jotting down thoughts or ideas. Oftentimes a brainstorming facilitator will kick off this technique by posting a large piece of paper, sticky notes, or sharing a cloud-based document to jot down a few brainstorming ideas.
From there, team members can build off of those ideas on their own time and anonymously provide feedback. Be sure to set a clear deadline of when the brainstorming session closes to ensure all brainstormers have an opportunity to chime in.
Best for: individual brainstorming
10. Brain-netting, a.k.a. online brainstorming
Great for remote teams, brain-netting is essentially a place for a team to brain dump their own ideas, whether that’s a Slack channel, Google Doc, or your project management tool .
The notion is that brainstormers can add ideas whenever inspiration strikes and that the list will be ever-evolving. Of course, the team leader might want to inform their team of brainstormers of any important dates or deadlines when they need solutions to a problem. They may also want to hold a meeting to discuss the ideas. All brainstormers’ identities can be left anonymous even in the meeting.
Best for: group brainstorms, introverted team members, remote teams
The SCAMPER brainstorming technique encourages brainstormers to look at an idea from different angles and it uses its acronym to inspire each lens:
Substitute : consider what would happen if you swapped one facet of a solution for another.
Combine : consider what would happen if you combined one facet of a solution with another.
Adapt : consider how you could adapt an idea or solution in a new context.
Modify : consider how you can modify an idea to make it higher impact.
Put to another use : consider how else you could leverage your idea.
Eliminate : consider what you could remove from the idea or solution so that it’s simplified.
Reverse effective : finally, consider how you could reorganize an idea to make it most effective .
When used in a group brainstorming session, you might want to use templates to track responses or pair the SCAMPER method with a brainwriting session to encourage all brainstormers to evaluate ideas from every angle.
12. Lightning Decision Jam
Known as LDJ for short, the Lightning Decision Jam brainstorming technique requires 40 minutes to one hour to complete. What will you have by the end? Tangible results and buy-in from an entire team of brainstormers.
This brainstorming technique is great for remote team alignment . It all begins with writing down positives about a topic or what’s working regarding the topic, then writing down negatives and identifying what needs to be addressed most urgently. This is followed by a few minutes of reframing problems as questions, then brainstorming solutions for those problems.
Finally, your team uses a matrix to determine how high impact and how high effort your solutions are to decide which ideas are worth pursuing. For a more robust explanation of LDJ, watch this video by design agency AJ&Smart, which created the brainstorming technique.
Best for: group brainstorms, remote workforces, tight deadlines, honing in on an executable solution
13. The idea napkin
Similar to LDJ, the idea napkin is essentially a brainstorming template that distills a broad topic into tangible solutions. How it works: Every brainstormer has an “idea napkin” that they commit one idea to, beginning by writing down their idea, as well as an elevator pitch for it.
The idea napkin also includes a column for who the idea is targeting—meaning who you’re solving a problem for (customers, teammates, etc.)—and a column noting what problems your idea addresses. Brainstormers can fill out their napkins ahead of or during a brainstorming session, each is expected to present or share them. The final ideas will be placed on an impact and effort matrix to determine which are worth pursuing.
Best for: group brainstorms, honing in on an executable solution
Roleplaying brainstorm techniques
Drama lovers rejoice! These roleplay brainstorming techniques encourage brainstormers to figuratively walk in someone else’s shoes or put on their hat—or six hats, in one instance—to address a problem or dream up ideas from a new perspective. An added benefit of this? When brainstormers take on a personality that’s not their own, it lowers inhibitions since it’s technically not their point of view being brought to the table.
14. Six thinking hats
This brainstorming technique requires a minimum of six brainstormers to wear imaginary hats—hence the name— that require them to look solely at an idea from one specific angle. For instance, one brainstormer might be wearing an impact hat and only concern themselves with the impact of an idea and another might be wearing a constraints hat and only looking at the constraints of an idea.
You can pick and choose which angles are most important to your organization. And by the end of the group discussion, the whole brainstorming group should be able to hang their hats feeling confident about the ideas you’ll pursue.
Best for: group brainstorms (six or more people), introverted team members, vetting ideas thoroughly
15. Figure storming
Ever heard the phrase, “What would Abe do?” That’s pretty much the premise of this brainstorming technique in that brainstormers take on the identity of a famous or prominent figure, whether that’s a leader or celebrity, and put themselves in their brain space and how they’d approach an idea.
This helps teams look at a topic through a different lens and, in the case of group brainstorms, alleviates any nervousness that brainstormers will put out bad ideas. Because they’re not putting out their ideas—they’re sharing someone else’s. So go on and give yourself a new job title for the day.
Best for: individual and group brainstorms, extroverted team members
16. Role storming
Role storming is similar to figure storming in that brainstormers take on different personalities to dream up ideas, but with one dramatic twist—brainstormers act out those ideas.
Generally, brainstormers are asked to take on the role of an average person who will be affected by the idea or solution in question, whether that’s an employee, client, or another party, and they act out a scenario that could stem from the idea to help them decipher what problems might arise from it. Consider this brainstorming technique for more extroverted teams.
Best for: group brainstorms, extroverted team members
17. Reverse brainstorming
Reverse brainstorming is grounded in a little bit of chaos. It encourages brainstormers to play the role of disruptors by brainstorming problems first and then solutions. To kick off the brainstorming questions, a team leader will usually ask, “How do we cause [insert problem]?”
Once your team has listed the causes, they’ll have a new and different perspective for coming up with solutions to problems.
Best for: group brainstorms, idea generation, problem-solving
18. Reverse thinking
Reverse thinking is a bit of a mashup of the figure storming and six thinking hats brainstorming techniques. It encourages brainstormers to merely ask themselves, “What would someone else do in this situation?” Then, it prompts them to think through why that person’s solution would work or not and if your current solution is more effective.
Best for: group brainstorms, extroverted team members, vetting ideas thoroughly
Group brainstorm techniques
Most brainstorming techniques can be applied to groups of brainstormers, but these specific brainstorming techniques promote (and some even require) participation from everyone. When facilitated well, group brainstorming techniques not only yield more ideas but they can also:
Boost team morale through lighthearted brainstorming games and by involving participation in every step of the brainstorming process
Promote creative thinking, especially when brainstormers are given time to prepare their ideas and a structured approach to solve problems
Bring more diverse ideas together, thanks to the unique perspective each brainstormer has and their individual strengths
All this to say, group brainstorming techniques are all about putting people’s heads together.
19. Eidetic image method
The eidetic image method is grounded in setting intentions, and it begins with group members all closing their eyes to do just that. For example, if a company is setting out to design a new smartwatch, the brainstorming facilitator would encourage all brainstormers to close their eyes and quietly meditate on what smartwatches currently look like.
Then the group would discuss and close their eyes once more and quietly imagine new features to add to the device. They’d all open their eyes and discuss again, essentially layering on the possibilities for enhancing a product. This brainstorming technique is ideal for revamping or building on an existing product or solution.
Best for: visual thinkers, creating an idea anew
20. Rapid ideation
Great for teams that get sidetracked or have difficulty staying focused in meetings, the rapid ideation brainstorming technique encourages brainstormers to race against a clock and come up with as many ideas as possible—and importantly, not take themselves too seriously. This can be done by having brainstormers shout out ideas to a facilitator or write them on a piece of paper. You might find that some of the same ideas keep popping up, which likely means those are worth pursuing.
Best for: extroverted team members, tight deadlines
21. Round-robin brainstorming
Participation is required for the round-robin brainstorming technique. Everyone must contribute at least one idea before the entire group can give feedback or share a second idea.
Given the requirement that everyone must share an idea, it’s best to allow brainstormers time to prepare ideas before each round-robin brainstorming session. This brainstorming technique is great for introverted team members and also for larger groups to ensure everyone can contribute. Moreover, the round-robin brainstorming technique also promotes the notion that the only bad idea is no idea.
Best for: introverted team members and developing a surplus of ideas
22. Step-ladder brainstorming
Ideal for medium-sized groups of five to 15 people, the step-ladder brainstorming technique prevents ideas from being influenced by the loudest brainstormers of a group.
Here’s how it works: A brainstorming facilitator introduces a topic to their group of brainstormers and then dismisses all but two brainstormers from the room. The two brainstormers left in the room discuss their ideas for a few minutes and then one brainstormer is welcomed back into the room and shares their ideas before the original two brainstormers divulge their ideas.
Brainstormers are added back into the room one by one, with each new brainstormer sharing their ideas before the rest of the group divulges theirs, and so forth. Once the entire brainstorming group is back in the room, it’s time to discuss the ideas they’ve built together, step by step.
Best for: introverted team members, vetting ideas thoroughly, honing in on an executable solution
You might want to book a few rooms for this one. The charette brainstorming technique helps break up a problem into smaller chunks and also breaks up your brainstormers into separate teams to address them.
For instance, you might reserve three rooms, write a topic or problem on a whiteboard, and have three sets of brainstormers walk into those rooms to jot down their ideas. Then, the sets of brainstormers rotate rooms and build off of the ideas of the group that was there before them. Consider it effective teamwork at its best.
Best for: vetting ideas thoroughly, honing in on an executable solution
More brainstorming techniques
For more unconventional approaches to get your individual or your team’s wheels turning, consider adding some of these brainstorming techniques to your arsenal of ways to ideate.
24. ‘What if’ brainstorming
A very off-the-cuff brainstorming technique, “what if” brainstorming is as simple as throwing out as many “what if” questions surrounding a topic as possible, similar to the rapid ideation brainstorming technique. For instance, “what if this problem occurred in a different country,” or, “what if this problem occurred in the 1800s?”
Walking through the scenarios might help spur new obstacles pertaining to your problem. Essentially, the “what if” brainstorming technique helps your team evaluate all the possibilities.
Best for: individual and group brainstorms, creating an idea anew, vetting ideas thoroughly
25. Change of scenery
It’s no secret that physical surroundings can impact your team workflow and even creativity. When your brainstorming session is in a rut, consider relocating to another location, perhaps a park, a walking meeting, or even a coffee shop.
Being in a new setting might spur new ideas and even loosen up your brainstormers so that they’re more open to sharing ideas and helping you achieve quantity over quality.
Best for: individual and group brainstorms, creating an idea anew
26. Random word picker
As this name implies, this brainstorming technique is a little random. Begin by tossing words into a hat and then pull them out and discuss how they relate to your brainstorming topic at hand. You may want to use a template to keep track of your thoughts and any new ideas the word association sparks.
To further organize your thoughts, consider pairing this brainstorming technique with word banking, meaning categorizing random words together and then drawing associations between their category and the brainstorming topic.
Best for: group brainstorms, creating an idea anew
Turns out, storyboarding isn’t only for television and film. You can also apply this as a brainstorming technique, meaning illustrating or drawing a problem and possible solutions. Consider it another way to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, especially those your solution impacts. It’s also a means to visualize any roadblocks you might experience when executing a solution.
Best for: individual or group brainstorms, problem-solving, vetting ideas thoroughly
Wishing is as simple as it sounds: You just wish for the solution you want to build. Think: “I wish our company was carbon neutral,” and then think of the possible ways in which you could achieve this, as well as areas that might be impossible to address for this. This will help uncover obstacles you might face and maybe even shed light on what you’re capable of overcoming.
Best for: individual or group brainstorms, creating an idea anew
29. Crazy eights
A short and fun brainstorming technique, crazy eights delivers on quantity by encouraging brainstormers to think quickly using a template that has eight boxes and only eight minutes on the clock to sketch out eight ideas. Once the timer stops, the group discusses their ideas.
For a larger group, consider having each brainstormer narrow in on only three ideas and give them a longer time limit of six minutes to sketch them out in more detail.
Best for: group brainstorms, visual thinkers, developing a surplus of ideas
8 tips for a productive brainstorming session
No matter which brainstorming technique is right for you and your team, consider the following best practices to brainstorm most effectively . Of course, it all begins with the brainstorming facilitator and how they set the tone for the session.
1. Allow time to prep
A brainstorming facilitator isn’t the only one in a brainstorming session who needs time to prepare for a meeting . They also should give brainstormers some context ahead of the session, such as in the form of a meeting agenda , to get in the correct mindset for the brainstorming session.
At least one day is standard but as little as two to 10 minutes is useful. Moreover, brainstorming facilitators should also have a few ideas in their back pocket for any creative ruts that might creep in.
2. Set a clear intention
The more context you can provide brainstormers from the get-go, the more fruitful ideas they can produce. For instance, clearly spell out what types of ideas you’re looking for. Whether it’s quickly executable ones or ones that are entirely pathbreaking, identify specific targets to address.
Additionally, be sure to let brainstormers know of any constraints you or your organization is operating under, including project timelines or budgets, so they’re generating executable ideas.
3. Invite new teammates and ideas
When the same people brainstorm together over and over, they can tend to produce the same ideas over and over. For this reason, consider introducing new people to your brainstorming session to shake up the usual and lend a fresh perspective—and hopefully fresh ideas—to your brainstorming topics. Invitees can be colleagues from different departments, customers or clients for a focus group, or an outside consultant.
4. Promote inclusivity
Every brainstorming session should be considered a safe space to share ideas—even unconventional ones. Remember, the only bad ideas are no ideas, and any idea shared shouldn’t be shot down or judged. In addition, the brainstorm facilitator should ensure every brainstormer is treated equally and given the same amount of time to talk. This might mean setting a timer for each brainstormer to talk and acknowledging those who are dominating conversations. Likewise, every brainstormer should be open and curious to ideas.
5. Think out of the box
Creative thinking begins with not taking ourselves too seriously. Just as you encourage inclusivity, encourage imperfections and out-of-the-box thinking, too. This could include anything from fun team building games to unique icebreaker questions. Hey, even a bevy of silly ideas to build off of is better than no ideas at all. Brainstorming techniques like wishing can encourage team members to open up.
6. Amplify creativity with music
Similar to how a change of scenery can inspire new ideas, even a little background music can promote creativity. Consider putting some on for your brainstorming session, and for the best results ensure it’s:
In a major key
On a fixed tempo and volume
7. Mix and match brainstorming techniques
Just as brainstorming techniques aren’t necessarily one-size-fits-all, they also aren’t all one-type-fits-every-session. Be prepared to pivot your brainstorming technique depending on what your group of brainstormers is most receptive to and also how many ideas you're juggling.
8. Execute your ideas
Coming up with bright ideas is great. But they’re pretty useless unless you effectively execute them. While some brainstorming techniques build the execution process into them, others might require you to follow up with brainstormers using project templates to map out a plan using creative solutions.
Brainstorming is about quantity over quality
When done right, a brainstorming session shouldn’t feel like a chore but rather an opportunity to create something together, especially when your brainstorming technique supports different styles of thinking and expression.
And whether you're operating as an individual or on a team, there’s something uniquely satisfying about seeing your ideas come to fruition. Get the creative ideas flowing, then customize your workflow management tool to turn those ideas into action.
Brainstorming: How to Generate Ideas and Improve Your Writing
Brainstorming is when you deliberately try to think up new ideas or solutions to problems. In writing —whether creative , academic , or business—it’s a beneficial preliminary stage that helps writers know precisely what’s going into their projects.
Ideas are the most valuable resource in any communication, which makes brainstorming for writing a crucial part of the process. But for people who mostly wait around for ideas to find them, brainstorming can be quite difficult or even frustrating.
To facilitate the process and make brainstorming bear more fruit, we explain the most effective techniques below. But first, let’s start with the direct benefits of brainstorming, and why you should resist the urge to skip it.
How brainstorming can improve your writing
We recommend brainstorming to be your first step in the entire writing process . Why? Because knowing what content you want to include right from the start makes all the subsequent steps much, much easier.
The alternative is “winging it,” and coming up with ideas as you write. That can work just fine for some people . . . but for most, it does not. Taking a proactive approach to generating ideas tends to not only produce more ideas, but also inspire better quality ones. Not to mention, in a dedicated brainstorming session you have more control over when these ideas appear, instead of waiting around.
Think of brainstorming for writing as compartmentalization. You set aside time exclusively for editing and outlining , so why not set aside time just for ideas? It’s easier to come up with ideas in bulk when your mind is already in a brainstorming mindset.
Individual vs. group brainstorming
While brainstorming is often thought of as a group activity, for projects with a single author you can also do it individually (for example, if you’re brainstorming a personal essay based on your own experiences). Brainstorming on your own follows the same procedure and best practices listed below, so don’t think you need other people to do it.
There are some benefits to brainstorming as a group, though—namely, new perspectives and angles. Even if you’re the sole author, as with most school assignments, you can always call on some friends to help you think up ideas for your “blind spots.”
If you’re planning on a group brainstorming session, be careful of how you frame it. Try to emphasize creativity and free-thinking and instruct your group to avoid naysaying (although, scrutiny can be useful later when deciding which ideas to keep and which to scrap). Don’t rule out anyone whom you may not see as “creative”—people who don’t seem outwardly innovative or imaginative can always surprise you with the exact idea you’re missing.
How to brainstorm in 6 steps
If you’re new to brainstorming, here’s a quick six-step method you can follow to get the best results.
An environment conducive to creative thinking is key. First and foremost, you need to set aside time for yourself or schedule a session with your group. Take brainstorming seriously by making it an appointment, and allot enough time that you’re not distracted by other plans.
Next, you need the right area. Choose someplace relaxing where you can concentrate. Remove all distractions and consider a “no internet” rule until after the session. If you want, you can heighten the mood with some music, incense, or low lighting—whatever helps you think. Everyone has different opinions about what’s relaxing, so go with what makes you comfortable.
Last, you’ll need something to write on for collecting your notes. Again, choose whatever makes you the most comfortable: computer, phone, paper, etc. If you’re doing a group brainstorming session, try a whiteboard so everyone can see.
2 Capture the main focal points
When it’s time for your actual brainstorming session, first write down your main focal points. For example, if you’re brainstorming an essay about irony in writing , you’d write down the word “irony” in the center or at the top of the document. This acts as a visual anchor to focus your thoughts and snap you back if you get distracted.
For more complicated projects, also write down any subtopics or secondary categories. If you’re brainstorming to flesh out a character, for example, you might want to use separate sections for different aspects of their personality, like “fears” or “motives.”
Don’t know what the main focal points are? There’s your first brainstorming objective! It can be as simple as writing “main topic” on a piece of paper and jotting down any and all ideas you have. It also helps to think ahead to writing a first draft and to try to foresee what ideas you want to put in.
Brainstorming works best when there’s a clear direction. The more you know what you’re looking for, the easier it is to find it. Writing these areas down as headers or category titles is a smart way to stay on top of what it is you’re brainstorming in the first place.
3 Write down all your initial ideas
In other words, write down the easy ideas: all the ideas you’ve had coming into the brainstorming session, as well as all the low-hanging fruit, even if it seems too obvious to put down.
For one thing, it helps to have all these ideas in one place to help you organize your thoughts and see what’s missing. Moreover, writing down your ideas has fascinating neurological effects , including increased attention. Think of it as clearing your head to “make room” for new ideas to move in.
And remember, there are no bad ideas! Brainstorming is about quantity, not quality, so write down everything you can think of. Later you can go through and trim the fat, but at this stage, the more the merrier.
4 Look for patterns
Once you have a sizable list of basic starter ideas, it’s time for analysis. Look for patterns in the ideas you like most, as well as the ones you like least. Maybe you have too many ideas in one category but not enough in another—you could choose to abandon the weaker category and break the bigger one into two.
You can use any patterns or connections going forward to shape your new ideas around what works and steer away from what doesn’t. If you’re in a group, this could be a good opportunity to discuss what you have so far.
5 List the “holes” or unaddressed objectives
What’s missing? What ideas do you still need? When your brainstorming session comes to a lull, it’s a good time to take stock of what you have—and don’t have.
Once the “easier” ideas are out of the way, you can refocus on the more problematic ones. But instead of diving right in, it’s best to list out all the missing areas first. For example, if you’re plotting a novel, make a list of all your undefined plot points. Use this as a checklist and go through one by one until you have ideas for each.
6 Generate new ideas for the missing parts
Finally, it’s time to fill in all the gaps you discovered in the previous step. This is often the hardest part of brainstorming writing, but also part of why it’s so useful: It’s better to address these difficulties at the start than deal with them later. If you’re stuck, here’s some brainstorming techniques to jump-start your creativity:
- Word association : Word association is when you see a word and write down the first new word that comes to mind. For example, “fire” might make you think of “hot,” “hot” conjures up “summer,” and “summer” reminds you of “beach.” Although robotic, this exercise can help you find new thematic relationships you hadn’t seen before, or simply occupy your mind while more ideas brew in your subconscious.
- Ask questions: “Why is this character angry?” “What’s my strongest supporting evidence?” “Where’s the emotion in this topic?” Good writing is often about asking yourself the right questions, so let your curiosity off the leash and see what answers you come up with. Questions also have positive effects on the brain , all of which are helpful for brainstorming.
- “What if . . .”: As an extension of asking questions, pose different “What if . . .” scenarios and see what you come up with. In creative writing it might be something like, “what if this character was older,” or, for brainstorming an essay, “what if I introduced my opponent’s arguments before mine?”
It’s easy to get burnt out when brainstorming, but rather than “push through,” it’s more effective to rest and try again later. Given the nature of brainstorming, you’ll have better results when you’re thinking clearly. Feel free to call it a day and reconvene later to finish—it helps to sleep on it and come back refreshed.
How to organize ideas after a brainstorming session
Once you’ve gotten enough ideas to map out your writing, that’s it for brainstorming! It’s time to move on to the more straightforward phases of the process.
The next step is outlining , where you take your brainstormed ideas and organize them in the order you want. Here you’ll really appreciate all your hard work in the brainstorming phase—imagine writing an outline with no ideas or, harder yet, writing a rough draft without any!
Brainstorm ideas & characters for your novel with Milanote
Follow this step-by-step guide to learn the modern process of brainstorming in Milanote, a free tool used by top creatives.
How to brainstorm ideas in 6 easy steps
You have an idea for a story. It's just a spark at the moment, but you can't stop thinking about it. Now is the time to harness your creative energy and turn your idea into something real. And brainstorming is the perfect technique for the job.
Brainstorming is a classic creative technique for generating new ideas quickly. You can use it to dream up new characters, settings, or even explore themes you want to include in your book. It’s best thought of as a way to light up our imagination. As ancient philosopher Plutarch said, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
In this guide, you'll learn the modern approach to brainstorming using Milanote. Remember, the creative process is non-linear, so you may find yourself moving back and forth between the steps as you go.
1. Start with your central topic
What's the central idea or concept for your story? This is your starting point. It might be just a rough idea at the moment or a topic that you want to explore, but this process will help you see how far you can take it. Add a note that describes your concept in 1 to 2 sentences to get started.
Create a new board for brainstorming.
Create a new board
Drag a board out from the toolbar. Give it a name, then double click to open it.
Add a note to describe your central idea.
Drag a note card onto your board
Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left hand toolbar.
2. Add as many related ideas as you can
Now it's time to get creative. Start adding any ideas that relate to your main concept. Think about different parts of your story, locations, characters, or even the history of your topic. Explore every thread until you fill the board.
Don't worry about evaluating your ideas yet, that will come later. Just add as many as you can. Setting a timer for 5 minutes is a great way to create a sense of urgency and prevent you from judging your thoughts.
Add a note for each idea.
3. Add inspiring imagery
Sometimes it's easier to communicate an idea with an image, especially if it's a mood or style you're trying to express. Images can help define things like fashion, character attributes and emotions, scenes, and more. These can become the foundation for a moodboard as your story evolves.
Use the built-in image library.
Use the built-in image library
Search over 500,000 beautiful photos powered by Unsplash then drag images straight onto your board.
Drag images from your computer onto the board.
Upload a image or document
Click the "Upload file" button or just drag a file onto your board. You can add images, logos, documents, videos, audio and much more.
4. Add motion & sound
You can also use video references to bring your ideas to life. If you're inspired by a scene in a film or a piece of music, add it into the mix. This part is solely about collecting ideas. Grab video from YouTube , or even audio from Soundcloud to help capture your ideas.
Embed Youtube videos or audio in a board.
Embed Youtube videos or audio tracks in a board
Copy the share link from Youtube, Vimeo, Soundcloud or many other services. Drag a link card onto your board, paste your link and press enter.
5. Evaluate your ideas
Now’s the time for critique. Run through the ideas again, this time critically evaluating them against the original concept.
If you have a writing partner, ask them to choose their favorite ideas and explain why. Be prepared to share your thinking and welcome suggestions and improvements. Encourage constructive debate. If an idea isn't dramatically improving the story, put it aside. You can always return to it later.
Invite a writing partner to collaborate.
Invite editors to your board
Open the "Editors" menu from the title bar of your board. Add email addresses of the people you'd like to collaborate with—they'll receive an invitation via email.
Start a comment thread.
Start a comment thread
Drag out a comment from the toolbar on the left and place it on your board. Other editors can reply to your comment.
Mention others to get their attention.
Mention teammates to get their attention
Type '@' in any text field to mention someone who has access to your board. They'll receive a notification and be able to respond to your comment.
6. Finally, group your ideas into themes
Once you've explored tangents and shared feedback, the next step is to make connections. This is where you see the magic of brainstorming.
Start by grouping similar ideas to uncover patterns in your thinking. Add a title to each group so it's easy to scan. You might find your ideas fall into groups like story, location, characters, or scenes, but there are no rules about how you do it. Now you should start to see your initial concept coming to life.
Drag content to create groups of similar ideas
Now that your brainstorming session is complete, you have a strong foundation for your novel! Remember, just as creativity and inspiration are constantly evolving, so are ideas. Come back and add to the brainstorm when inspiration strikes. Use the template below to start brainstorming or read our full guide on how to plan a novel .
Get started for free with Milanote's easy to use brainstorming template.
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Five Different Brainstorming Techniques for Authors
You know your story is brewing somewhere inside you, waiting to come out. You open up a new project in Dabble, ready to write a bestseller.
And you type: It was a really, really cold day. So cold, Lisa was chilly.
Riveting, right? So you don’t write the best opening line ever. What’s the big deal? You can always fix it later—for now, it’s on to the next words.
But they never come. Writer’s block , clogged pipes, brain fart—whatever you want to call it, something is stopping your story from coming to life.
The ideas aren’t right, the words are worse, and you actually hate your characters right now.
We’ve all been there.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to help out: establish a writing habit , read great books about writing , or try some writing exercises to kick-start your creativity.
But one of the best things you can do to get your imagination going is some good ol’ fashioned brainstorming.
If brainstorming seems daunting or you’ve had less-than-stellar success in the past, don’t fret. In this article, we’re going to look at a bunch of different brainstorming exercises, including:
- Using bullet points
- The Plot Grid
- Connecting branches
- Testing different perspectives
By the time we’re done, you’re going to have a bunch of new tools in your writing toolkit to brainstorm amazing ideas and help you write your best novel.
How to Brainstorm for Your Novel
There isn’t a right or wrong way to brainstorm a novel. Just like writing itself, whatever gets your brain working is somewhat unique to you.
That’s why I’m coming at you with a whole bunch of different ways to brainstorm. Give them a chance if they seem like they might work for you. Take what works and forget the rest!
Up first is a crudely named yet incredibly effective technique called word vomiting. More well-mannered individuals than myself might also refer to it as freewriting. What can I say? I’m more about writing sassy villains than stalwart knights.
Whatever you call it, this brainstorming technique looks to lower all those inhibitions and crippling self-doubt that’s keeping your creativity on a short leash.
Word vomiting means exactly what it sounds like: you just let the words spill out onto the page/screen. Even that can be easier said than done, though, so here are some tips for freewriting:
Do it in bursts - Like nausea, creativity comes in waves. Sometimes the best way to freewrite is to set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes before taking a break. During that time, don’t stop writing. We aren’t looking for perfect; we’re just looking for words. Take a break once the timer is up, then rinse and repeat. (We also have a completely free online writing sprint tool you can use for this!)
Manuscript or outline? - Your word vomit can help for both writing your first draft and coming up with new ideas for your plot, characters, and settings. Choose what you want to brainstorm before you start, and focus your bursts on that.
Don’t worry - What you come up with while word vomiting isn’t meant to produce flawless work. You’re going to need to revise your work , likely more than what you produce during a normal writing session. But the whole point of word vomit is to get you writing so your momentum can carry you through to the good stuff.
Another useful brainstorming technique is using bullet points. This method is great for writers who prefer a more structured approach to generating ideas. Instead of free-flowing sentences, you create a list of bullet points outlining your story’s plot, characters, and setting.
Bullet points allow you to focus on the key elements of your story without worrying about the details. You can start with a basic outline and add more details as you go along. This method is also useful for breaking down complex ideas into manageable pieces.
When using bullet points to brainstorm, it’s important to remember that the goal is to generate ideas, not to create a polished draft. The purpose of this exercise is to get your creative juices flowing, so don’t worry too much about the order or structure of your bullet points. You can always refine and organize them later.
Here are some tips for using bullet points in your brainstorming process.
Keep it simple - Don’t worry about making your bullet points look perfect or follow a specific format. The point is to get your ideas down quickly and in a way that’s easy to read and understand. You can always go back and reorganize or expand on them later.
Focus on quantity - When using bullet points to brainstorm, you want to generate as many ideas as possible. Don’t worry about whether they’re good or bad, just get them down on paper. This will help you see the bigger picture of your story and give you plenty of material to work with when it’s time to start writing.
Group your ideas - Once you have a long list of bullet points, start looking for patterns or connections between them. Grouping similar ideas together can help you identify themes or subplots in your story and can also help you see where you might need to fill in gaps or add more detail.
One thing I love about using bullet points is that it can be a helpful technique for both plotters and pantsers . Plotters can use bullet points to create a detailed outline of their story, while pantsers can use them to generate new ideas and keep track of their thoughts as they write.
One of the most powerful tools available to writers is built right into Dabble: The Plot Grid .
The Plot Grid is a versatile, fully integrated part of Dabble that lets you manage subplots and relevant notes that attach directly to each scene in your manuscript.
But how can you use this awesome tool to brainstorm? I’m glad you asked.
While having your notes automatically integrate with your scenes is nice, the real brainstorming benefit of the Plot Grid is its visual representation. Since everything other than your written paragraphs are drag-and-droppable in Dabble, the Plot Grid lets you experiment with a lot of “What If?” scenarios.
What if I put this scene in the haunted house instead of the school? What if the meet cute actually took place a chapter later in the story? What if a pivotal scene was actually about the antagonist instead of the hero?
Here are a few tips for using the Plot Grid to brainstorm your writing.
Visual changes inspire plot changes - Even if the changes don’t stick, simply moving pieces of your story around can inspire creative changes in your plot. Some of those changes could even come from moving parts of entirely different sections around.
Create copies - It’s as easy as clicking the three dots beside your Plot Grid in the nav menu and choosing “Copy Plot Grid.” This lets you mess around with an identical version of your Plot Grid without fear of ruining what you have.
Unlimited flexibility - Though the columns of the Plot Grid are most often used for subplots, you can really use them for anything. I use columns for settings, POV, romantic interests, character arcs, red herrings, and more. You have the same flexibility to drag and drop in these columns as if they were for subplots. So go wild and see what inspires you!
Another powerful visual brainstorming technique is connecting branches. This method involves making connections between different elements of your story to create a cohesive and compelling narrative.
To use this technique, start by identifying the different elements of your story, including scenes, characters, and settings. Then, connect these elements by thinking about how they relate to each other. For example, you can connect scenes by actions and reactions, characters by relationships and conflicts, and settings by events and meaning to characters.
By connecting these different parts, you can create a more complex and nuanced story that engages your readers and keeps them invested in your characters and plot. This technique is especially useful for writers who want to create intricate plots with multiple subplots and characters.
When using connecting branches to brainstorm, it’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to explore different possibilities. Don’t be afraid to make connections that may seem unconventional or unexpected. These connections may lead to surprising plot twists and character developments that make your story more memorable.
Now, let’s move on to three tips for using connecting branches in your brainstorming process.
Experiment with different types of connections - There are many ways to connect the different elements of your story using branches. You can connect characters by their relationships or conflicts, settings by their relevance to the characters, or scenes by their actions and reactions. Try experimenting with different types of connections and see what works best for your story. You might find that one type of connection works better than another or that a combination of different types of connections is most effective.
Use visual aids - Connecting branches can be a visual way to help you see how different elements of your story are related. Use different colors or shapes for different types of connections to make them easier to distinguish. You can use software tools like MindNode or draw them by hand on a piece of paper. Whatever works best for you, make sure to keep your connections organized and easy to understand.
Keep revising - Connecting branches can be a useful tool for brainstorming and outlining your story, but don’t be afraid to revise and change them as your story develops. As you write and revise your story, you may find that some connections no longer make sense or that you need to add new ones. Don’t be afraid to make changes and adjust your connecting branches as needed to ensure that they accurately reflect your story.
Finally, we come to one of my favorite ways to brainstorm your current scene: test it from different perspectives. I am obsessed with writing from multiple perspectives ; I think it adds so much depth to both the story and the characters.
When a scene just isn’t clicking or having the effect you want, that’s where this brainstorming method comes in. By writing the same scene from different character viewpoints, you can explore different angles and gain new insights into the story.
To start testing perspectives, choose a scene that you’re having trouble with. It can be a pivotal moment in the plot or a minor interaction between characters. Then, rewrite the scene from the perspective of a different character. You might be surprised at how much this changes the tone and impact of the scene.
When testing perspectives, it’s important to remember that every character has their own unique worldview and experiences. So try to get into the mindset of the character you’re writing from. What are their motivations? How do they perceive the other characters? What emotions are they feeling?
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of testing perspectives:
Choose characters strategically - Don’t just choose any character to write from their perspective. Choose characters that will provide a unique insight into the scene. For example, if you’re writing a scene about a breakup, you might write it from the perspective of both people involved or from the perspective of a close friend or family member.
Pay attention to details - When writing from a different character’s perspective, pay attention to the details that might be important to them. What do they notice that your main character might not? How do they interpret certain actions or words? By focusing on these details, you can add depth and complexity to your scene.
Compare and contrast - After you’ve written the scene from different perspectives, compare them side by side. How are they similar? How are they different? What insights did you gain from each one? By comparing and contrasting, you can choose the best perspective to move forward with and create a more nuanced and powerful scene.
Write Your Best Book
No matter which method you choose, brainstorming is just one part of the novel-writing process. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back for every step of the journey.
To boost your writing knowledge, check out the hundreds of free articles we have on DabbleU . Become an expert on characters, conflict, genre, and everything you need to write your best book.
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You don’t need to do this alone, either. Head on over to the Story Craft Café , an online community of writers who are there to share your writing journey with you.
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Doug Landsborough can’t get enough of writing. Whether freelancing as an editor, blog writer, or ghostwriter, Doug is a big fan of the power of words. In his spare time, he writes about monsters, angels, and demons under the name D. William Landsborough. When not obsessing about sympathetic villains and wondrous magic, Doug enjoys board games, horror movies, and spending time with his wife, Sarah.
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Book marketing. Those two innocuous words instill fear and loathing into the hearts of so many writers. You just want to write your books and have them sell themselves. Why do you have to tell people about it? Well, Susan, because you do. I know you want to write, but if your goal is to write, publish, and make money from your books, then you’re going to have to find a way to make them visible. Thousands of new titles are uploaded to Amazon every single day. Millions of books are being published every year, and no matter how good your story is, without marketing, there’s not much chance very many people will find it.
What kind of writer are you? Are you the sort who writes a meticulous outline that tips into the five digits or the type who sits down in front of a blank sheet of paper and lets the words pour out of you like a runaway train? Did you know there are specific terms for this kind of writing? Writers will come up with words for anything, I swear. Plotters are the first type of writer. They like to have detailed outlines that tell them exactly where their story is going. Pantsers are the other type of writer, which is kind of a weird name, but the term was coined by Stephen King (a famous pantser) to describe writing by the seat of your pants. Cute, eh? There is no right or wrong way to write your book, and I’m going to repeat this so many times. The right way is the way that works for you.
Dystopian fiction is one of the darker subgenres of science fiction and fantasy. It takes us into dark, foreboding worlds, where oppression and bleak landscapes are the norm. Books like 1984 by George Orwell, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley have become classics that shine a light on political corruption, environmental disaster, and societal collapse.Why do we love these stories? Maybe it's because dystopian fiction allows us to explore worst-case scenarios, to grapple with the idea that the world we know and love could be lost forever. It's a way for us to confront our fears and anxieties about the future, to see what could happen if we continue down a certain path.