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7 actionable tips to elevate your brainstorming sessions
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7 actionable tips to elevate your brainstorming sessions

Get tips on elevating your brainstorming sessions—and improve team productivity, morale, and output.

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When Spencer Silver developed a unique, repositionable adhesive, it wasn't until his colleague, Art Fry, was looking for a way to keep his bookmarks in his hymnbook that an idea clicked. Together, they brainstormed the idea of paper bookmarks that don't fall out of the book. 

Without Silver and Fry having a forum to spitball creative ideas, it's possible the Post-It Note would never have been invented—and we'd still be looking for that page where we left off reading. 

But even when you’re brainstorming, creativity isn’t taken for granted. Sticking to the same or generic ways of brainstorming can make it easier to miss out on unique talents and different perspectives. To avoid this, you need to mix it up and adapt your brainstorming techniques to your objective and the varied ways your team members think and work. That way, you can get those creative juices flowing more effectively and boost productivity. 

In this article, you'll learn some brainstorming sessions tips to get everyone participating and passionate about sharing their ideas. We'll also show you how collaboration platforms like Switchboard let you lock ideas down whenever inspiration strikes. 

Create the right conditions for group brainstorming.   
Switchboard brings all your people and projects together on one expansive canvas that saves your work—so big ideas can flow freely during sessions or on your own time.  
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7 brainstorming tips to boost creativity and output

Done right, brainstorming with your team can inspire unique ideas and even get people into a flow state where they can do meaningful deep work. However, it can be hard to achieve flow when the average employee experiences approximately 56 interruptions a day—including unproductive meetings and notifications. 

Let's explore how you can carve time for impactful group brainstorming and create the right conditions for ideas and employees to thrive. 

1. Curate the right combination of people

You never want too many cooks in the kitchen. Likewise, you can't fit too many brains in a brainstorm. That's why you need to limit your sessions to approximately eight to 10 people to keep conversations focused and give everyone a chance to contribute. 

But remember, your brainstorming team should still represent a diversity of experience, expertise, and perspectives. The more diverse your teams are, the more likely you are to create a product people across use cases will enjoy. 

Encourage a mix of individuals from different departments, backgrounds, and skill sets to participate. If you're working in an Agile framework with cross-functional teams, achieving variety will likely be easier. 

According to Steve Pritchard, Director at It Works Media, "A workplace is often made up of a diverse group of people, who thrive under different conditions. Ask your team members separately what will personally help them in a brainstorming session (or in the general workplace) and if there is anything they need." Getting direct feedback from your employees can help you pinpoint any improvements and facilitate a brainstorming session that actually gets results. 

2. Work from a creative space

Step out of the typical conference room and into an environment that sparks creativity. Whether it's an outdoor space or a virtual room filled with your favorite online brainstorming tools, a change of scenery can provide fresh ideas. 

Make sure to choose a space that is comfortable, visually stimulating, and free from interruptions. Elements like natural light, vibrant colors, and flexible seating arrangements can also be great for coming up with original ideas.

Pro tip: Open a dedicated Switchboard room for brainstorming and keep all your files, images, virtual whiteboard, and tools in one place. For example, a product team brainstorming a new recommendation engine for their streaming service might populate their Switchboard room with user feedback, design mockups, meeting recordings, and a virtual whiteboard. This way, anyone can enter the room when they have an idea to contribute, and they can always check back in to track team progress. 
Figma, Google Docs, and a virtual whiteboard in a Switchboard room
Switchboard lets you plan and host brainstorming sessions all from one place.

3. Build on others' ideas

Running effective meetings means knowing how to get people out of their heads and actively engaged in the session. This means encouraging them to build on others' ideas by embracing the "Yes, and" improv technique. When someone shares an idea, instead of shooting it down, run with it and see where it takes you. With this technique, the only word you can't use is "no," so you’re forced to build on an idea. 

In general, when listening to ideas, Pritchard recommends "Being respectful and kind to others’ ideas. Make sure any criticism is constructive and helpful, and give clear reasons why someone’s idea won’t work in this context. Inclusion is also key. Ways to achieve this can include not interrupting, asking questions to help team members elaborate their point, and doing your best to make everyone feel comfortable." 

Case study: How a product team builds on each others' ideas

Let's consider a product team brainstorming to increase their mobile app's user engagement. The session's goal is to develop a new feature that encourages more user interaction. Here's how they might build on each other's ideas:

1. Set an agenda.
The team creates a Switchboard room dedicated to brainstorming and adds their brainstorming agenda in advance so people can start the ideation process
2. Add a new idea.
In a memo, the UX designer suggests adding interactive tutorials to help new users understand the app's features. This idea aims to increase user engagement by improving the onboarding experience.
3. Build on an existing idea.
The game designer builds on the interactive tutorial idea by suggesting the inclusion of gamification elements. For example, users could earn points or badges for completing tutorial sections. They add a quick sketch on the virtual whiteboard.
4. Encourage everyone to participate.
The data scientist suggests using data analytics to personalize the interactive tutorials for each user based on their behavior and preferences.
5. Refine ideas.
With a space everyone can come back to, each team member feels comfortable contributing their unique expertise. Together, they can collaboratively refine and expand upon the initial idea to create a comprehensive, multi-faceted feature designed to boost user engagement effectively.

4. Use a range of brainstorming techniques 

There are plenty of techniques you can use to cater to different thinking styles, like engaging introverts in brainstorming. This ensures everyone, regardless of their personality or creative process, gets a chance to voice their ideas. 

Here are some ideas you can try: 

Rapid ideation 

Encourage participants to come up with as many ideas as possible in a short timeframe, prioritizing quantity over quality. This technique helps overcome analysis paralysis and encourages free thinking. Simply set a timer in your Switchboard room and get everyone jotting down their ideas.  

Figure storming

This is when everyone adopts the persona of someone else, like a client or a competitor, and comes up with ideas from that perspective. This approach can uncover novel insights by looking at the challenges from new and varied viewpoints. It can also be a fun way to dig deeper into customer pain points while making market research more interactive. 

Mind mapping 

In this technique, the group starts with one idea and then draws lines connecting sub-ideas to the first one. For example, a product team optimizing their online checkout experience might put "checkout process improvement" in the center of their mind map. Then, they might connect it to other first-level nodes that represent key areas of focus, like "payment options," "speed and efficiency," and "user experience." From there, the team can drill down into more specific solutions or actions for each idea. 

Worst first 

Coined by Funmentum Labs, "Worst first" involves starting with all the bad ideas first to overcome the pressure of getting it right the first time. This approach helps you find new pathways you might've overlooked, and can boost team morale and camaraderie right from the get-go. 

5. Keep energy high 

If you're meeting in real time, you need a facilitator who steers the session and keeps everyone's creative thinking focused. It's also important to keep engagement and momentum going throughout the brainstorming session, so good ideas don't get lost because people aren't paying attention. 

Things you can do to keep spirits and participation high include: 

  • Start with a warm up or icebreaker. Beginning with an icebreaker can help team members feel more comfortable and willing to share their ideas. An icebreaker could be a quick fun fact round where each participant shares something unique about themselves or a light-hearted game that gets everyone laughing and interacting. If you're using Switchboard, simply pull up the in-room icebreaker app in your brainstorming room and get instant questions you and your team can answer, without switching tools or wasting time finding the right questions. 
Icebreaker questions in a Switchboard room
Switchboard's icebreaker game gets people thinking and building rapport, quickly. 
  • Take breaks. Successful team brainstorming means giving everyone a chance to collect themselves and come back to the session energized and excited. Taking frequent breaks also helps keep the mental toll of context-switching at bay, which can lower productivity and output. 
  • Encourage people to bring snacks. This can be a great morale booster, keeping the physical and mental energy up and making the brainstorming session feel more like a gathering than a meeting. Encouraging participants to bring and share their favorite snacks can also add an element of personal connection and fun to the session.
  • Turn brainstorming into a game. Gamifying the brainstorming process can significantly enhance participation and enthusiasm. For example, you could introduce a point system for ideas, where participants earn points for each idea contributed. Alternatively, you could use a game like "idea speed dating," where participants rotate in pairs, quickly sharing and building upon each other's ideas. 

6. Use the right tools

"Sometimes zero technology can help limit distractions and think clearly. However, everyone having access to Google, and relevant websites and articles, can help spark ideas," says Pritchard. This means you need tools that let you add everything you need for your session in one place where everyone can access it. 

For example, in Switchboard, you can add all your favorite tools, apps, and files in an interactive room that saves your work. This means you can share ideas, get feedback, make decisions in context, and make brainstorming truly collaborative. Best of all, you can get Switchboard AI to summarize everything in your room for you. This makes it easy to pick up where you left off—without missing a virtual sticky note or memo with your next product feature on it. 

Switchboard AI features
Switchboard AI lets you get a headstart on your brainstorming meeting by summarizing sticky notes in your room or helping you research a new topic. 

7. Share ideas async 

Sharing ideas async can give you more time for meaningful focus work instead of dropping what you're doing to attend another meeting. Also known as "brain netting," it involves adding your ideas to your virtual collaboration tool on your own time—and keeping the brainstorming going without sticking to the amount of time allotted in a real-time session. “Allowing everyone in the group to prepare beforehand is one of the best ways to ensure everyone has a voice in the meeting," says Pritchard. 

If you're using Switchboard, it's easy to get team members to contribute at their own pace by giving them permanent access to the room. This can also lead to more thoughtful and diverse input since people can drop by the room whenever inspiration strikes and keep following up.

Brainstorming presentation and video in a Switchboard room
Switchboard makes brainstorming in real time and async a breeze with persistent rooms that save your work. 

Brainstorming session tips: Elevate your brainstorming sessions by never missing an idea 

Effective brainstorming sessions capture innovative ideas and turn them into action items that lead to a new product or feature. You might not invent Post-It Notes in your next brainstorm, but you do need to keep big ideas and teamwork flowing—and follow up so ideas actually turn into products. 

For example, sticking to the same old ways of brainstorming can make it easier to miss out on unique talents and perspectives. That's why leaders need to keep adapting their brainstorming exercises to match their objectives, as well as the varied ways their team members think and work.

In this article, we covered how leaders can use a range of brainstorming techniques, curate the right combination of people, and share ideas async, to improve the quality of their brainstorming sessions (among other things).

Plus, when you use Switchboard rooms as your single source of truth, you get all the information and content you need to engage in creative thinking—and keep people engaged and productive whenever they're online

Create the right conditions for group brainstorming.   
Switchboard brings all your people and projects together on one expansive canvas that saves your work—so big ideas can flow freely during the session or on your own time.  
Sign up free

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Create the right conditions for group brainstorming.

Switchboard brings all your people and projects together on one expansive canvas that saves your work—so big ideas can flow freely during sessions or on your own time.