The Basics of Brainstorming

Follow these tips to unleash the power of innovative thinking and creative problem solving.

May 20, 2015

4 Min Read
The Basics of Brainstorming

Follow these tips to unleash the power of innovative thinking and creative problem solving.

Tom KraMer

Brainstorming may have taken some abuse lately, but it appears that many people do not truly understand brainstorming, its various methods, and when to leverage brainstorming in the product development process.

Remember, the goal is increased innovative thinking and creative problem solving—a worthy endeavor!

But to unleash the true power of brainstorming, there are a few ground rules you should follow.


First of all, brainstorming is meant to be done as a group. (Ideation can be done alone after the brainstorming sessions have ceased.) It is a very raw, early stage task. Some ideas will even be unrelated and irrelevant, but that does not matter at this point. Let thoughts and ideas flow. However, you should know and follow the basic rules of brainstorming.

Choose the Right Method

There are many effective brainstorming methods, all geared to inspire imagination and creative problem solving. Each approach has merit, and, when put in the light of your particular situation, you can select the method that best fits you and your team.

For example, the technique called biomimicry isolates core elements of the problem you are trying to solve. It then identifies analogous or similar problems in the natural world and observes
the solutions provided by nature. Once the natural solution is discovered, transfer it to your particular challenge.

The random juxtaposition technique takes concepts from unrelated fields and ties them to the current problem. Consider these two concepts: airplane/food blender. Instead of pushing an aircraft body through the air to create lift on the attached wings, the body remains stationary and the wings are pushed through the air by rotating them about a vertical axis. This is the helicopter.

Reverse brainstorming, lotus blossom, card passing, and many other techniques can get you on the road to generating great ideas. You should be careful to select the methods that is best suit you and your company’s culture.

How do you get the most value from brainstorming, regardless of the method you choose? Here are three important practices that will help make sure you get there:

Proper Moderation

Effective brainstorming begins with proper moderating of each session. Make people follow rules, stop the dominators, encourage the meek, give examples to start, don’t let the recorder fail. You might even want to try brain-writing or brain-swarming, which focuses more on writing out your ideas so that extroverts cannot dominant introverts and hamper idea generation.

Know the End Game

You should know what you want to accomplish in the end before you start. If you have done your research, you should be able to pick the top two to three features or functions that are important to potential users and focus on them.

Filter Results

Methods for filtering results include grouping similar ideas together, categorizing, eliminate nonfeasibiles, and more. The key is how to filter out the good ideas into something actionable that has value. Effective filtering needs to have core elements such as well-defined design criteria, which enable each concept to be evaluated using a relevant rating system.

Be ready to get rid of all your stereotypes about brainstorming. You know the shtick: If you are an engineer, you only do x. If you are a manager, you only do y. And if you are an accountant, you only do z.

Real brainstorming enables everyone to step out of their roles, to stop being pigeon-holed. These departmental silos can prohibit real innovative thinking. One of the primary truths of brainstorming is that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Acting from the creative side or the logical side of the brain has more to do with how a person is trained to approach their work—it’s more situational and relational. It is simply not true that only right-brained creative types are good at brainstorming. And there is solid research to back this up.

You will soon see that, no matter in what company silo you reside, you can brainstorm just as effectively as the next person!

Tom KraMer, president and CEO of Kablooe Design, will present a session titled “Brainstorming Does Work!” Tuesday, June 9, 2015, at the MD&M East conference in New York City.


Sign up for the QMED & MD+DI Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like