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9 engaging activities for impactful group brainstorming
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9 engaging activities for impactful group brainstorming

Discover creative and engaging activities for impactful group brainstorming—and elevate teamwork and productivity.

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Airbnb was conceived during a brainstorming session at a conference to address the lack of hotel space in San Francisco. Growing from renting out space in your home, it transformed into a global platform that has changed the way people travel and rent vacation properties. 

Would people have come up with the idea for Airbnb in a regular, traditional meeting? Maybe, but the creative meeting of minds in the brainstorming certainly gave it a supercharged start. 

Brainstorming sessions need to be engaging to get everyone participating and contributing their best ideas—more so than regular meetings. That's why you need different activities for effective group brainstorming, so you can get ideas flowing faster and build better products

In this article, you'll learn engaging group brainstorming activities you can use to spark creative thinking and teamwork. You'll also discover how Switchboard helps improve brainstorming by giving you the freedom to contribute ideas no matter where or when you work. 

Generate more ideas, faster. 
Work side by side on any app, document, or file in Switchboard without sharing screens—so there’s nothing to interrupt your creative flow.     
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9 group brainstorming activities for creative teamwork

Employees view more than half of their meetings as unproductive–including brainstorming sessions–so you need to find ways to keep people engaged and contributing. When people show up ready to participate, it's more likely they'll enter a flow state that can usher in more original and big ideas. 

On top of finding the right online brainstorming tools that let everyone contribute, this means delving into the different activities and prompts you can provide to spark inspiration. Let's take a look at some now. 

1. Group sketching

This is where team members collectively draw ideas, concepts, or processes. If you're working across departments, locations, or teams, you might use a virtual whiteboard or your design tool to encourage visual thinking and uncover unique insights. 

A product team can use group sketching to design a new app interface. After pulling up their whiteboard tool in a dedicated Switchboard room, each member sketches their vision for the app's homepage, either in real time or on their own schedule. Participants can also pull up their own private whiteboard to sketch ideas before sharing as a group. The team then comes together to combine the best elements from each sketch to create a comprehensive and innovative design.

2. Storyboarding

Storyboarding is creating a visual story to explore a progression or process, like a user journey or product lifecycle. It helps in understanding the flow of user interaction and potential pain points and developing a product or workflow over time. 

For example, when developing a new onboarding feature, a product team might create a storyboard outlining each step a new user would take. This visual narrative can help identify and refine user touchpoints, streamlining the onboarding process based on the storyboard's flow.

If you're using Switchboard, you can compile all your sketches, drawings, and visual storyboards in one place, including the tools you use to create them—without integrations. For example, if you use Figma templates to build storyboards, just add them to your dedicated Switchboard room so you can build on each other's ideas async and in real time. 

Figma, virtual whiteboard, and Google Doc open in Switchboard
In Switchboard, you can pull up the built-in whiteboard or use your favorite third-party tool. 

3. Brain-netting

Brain-netting is when team members write down their ideas on their own time before coming together to share them with their team. This method ensures everyone's voice is heard, reducing the dominance of louder participants and preventing groupthink that can occur during discussions.  

It can be useful when engaging introverts in brainstorming since they don't have to come up with ideas on the spot. It can also yield more meaningful, thoughtful suggestions. According to Steve Pritchard, Director at It Works Media, "Some people work better independently, with time to think of ideas in their own time. To ensure everyone has a chance to think of ideas they need, allocate some separate thinking time before the session, perhaps on a different day to allow people to sleep on their ideas."

This method also helps spark creativity during brainstorming because you can use your next session to add to existing ideas in real time. Design teams might use their online collaboration tool to jot down ideas and sketches or add links when brainstorming their new prototype. These ideas are then pooled and discussed, making sure everyone considers a diverse set of concepts without bias.

Pro tip: Create your brain-netting room in Switchboard and make it easy to save your work or contribute new ideas whenever an idea strikes. With all the tools, apps, and files you need in one place, you can keep the brainstorming session going without interruptions as people switch screen sharing.  
Google Slides and Vimeo in a Switchboard room
Switchboard lets you plan and host group brainstorming sessions all from the one place. 

4. Mindmapping 

Successful team brainstorming is often the result of exploring complex ideas in a way everyone can understand. If you need a technique to convey complex information visually, mindmapping is a good place to start. That's because you're using diagrams to represent ideas, drawing from a central concept, and expanding outward with related ideas and subtopics. This lets you foster a structured understanding of the different aspects of a problem or solution. 

Imagine if, during the planning phase for a new product, a product team creates a mindmap starting with the core product idea at the center. Branching out, they might add potential features, user needs, and technical requirements, visually organizing the development roadmap. This can elevate brainstorming by giving the team mental images to work with at all stages of the ideation process.

You can use tools like Notion or Lucidchart to create mindmaps based on your particular needs. Then, add your mindmaps to your Switchboard brainstorm room so anyone can browse them when contributing or adding to ideas. Since Switchboard rooms save your work, everything will always be there so you can keep referencing your big idea. 

5. Figure storming 

This is when you imagine yourself in someone else's shoes, such as a customer or a key stakeholder, to generate ideas or solve problems. Figure storming is a fun way to build empathy and team camaraderie, and can lead to unique and relevant solutions for your end user. 

For example, to improve a fitness app, a product team might adopt the personas of different user archetypes (i.e., a busy professional, retired individual, or college student). By embracing different perspectives, they can brainstorm features that appeal to each persona and enhance user-centric design.

Figure storming isn't only limited to end-users, though. Encourage team members to think like competitors, channel historical or fictional characters, or adopt professional roles in entirely different industries. This can help your team identify gaps in their strategy or come up with ideas for how to differentiate yourself. 

6. Word banking 

This is when you create a list of words related to a topic or problem to serve as a springboard for coming up with ideas. Word banking provides a linguistic stimulus that can help you make connections or think outside regular patterns. You might use this approach to come up with new naming conventions or features by building associations with the core product concept. 

For instance, if a product team is naming a new health tracking feature, they would list words associated with health, progress, and technology. These words can then inspire potential feature names, making sure they're relevant and creative. Plus, if they're working in a Switchboard room, they can keep the list open on a shared document or sticky note, so it's always accessible. They can also use Switchboard AI to generate new ideas and summarize all the content in their room, so it's easy to pick up where they left off.

Switchboard AI feature menu
Switchboard AI helps creative and product teams do more in and during brainstorming sessions. 

7. Reverse brainstorming

In reverse brainstorming, you focus on how to cause a problem or worsen a situation, which can lead to innovative ideas and solutions. For instance, if the objective of your session is to improve the checkout process in an ecommerce app, the problem statement could be: "How can we make the checkout process more complicated and time-consuming?" 

The team then brainstorms ideas that would exacerbate the checkout process instead of improving it. These could include adding unnecessary steps, creating confusing navigation, or requiring irrelevant information from users. After compiling a list of reverse ideas, the team analyzes them to identify underlying issues that could potentially be real flaws in the current design. Design and UX engineers can then create prototypes incorporating these solutions and conduct user testing to validate the improvements.

Pro tip: Add your problem statement to the brainstorming agenda in your Switchboard room where everyone can see it and start thinking about ideas ahead of the session. This can build momentum and engagement, and keep sessions more productive. 

8. Backcasting

Backcasting starts with defining a desired future outcome and then working backward to identify the steps necessary to achieve it. This can be a powerful way to set long-term goals and determine the necessary actions to realize a product or company vision. 

If your team aims to lead the market in user satisfaction in five years, they could define the criteria for this success and then identify yearly milestones and strategies to achieve the vision. As a result, you're creating a roadmap for progress you can follow and adjust accordingly—and keep the brainstorming process going. 

9. Rapid writing 

This involves writing down thoughts and ideas as quickly as possible within a time limit, focusing on quantity over quality. Rapid writing can help you overcome mental blocks and generate a variety of ideas you can refine later. 

For example, when brainstorming features for a new social media tool, a veteran product team can engage in rapid writing sessions, jotting down any feature ideas that come to mind without judgment. Afterward, the team reviews and categorizes these ideas, focusing on the most promising ones for further development—while ensuring a psychologically safe environment. 

Elevate group brainstorming by coming prepared with ideas

Brainstorming exercises can be potent tools for coming up with creative solutions and using different angles to approach problem-solving. But they're even more powerful when you use them outside of brainstorming sessions as well as in them. Not only do they make live sessions more engaging, but encouraging people to start thinking in advance gets the ball rolling for when you come together to work on generating ideas.  

Whatever you do, brainstorming sessions need to be more engaging than regular meetings. This is because you need to get everyone participating and contributing their best ideas to move work forward. Everyone responds to different stimuli, so having a range of activities available for group brainstorming gets at different parts of the brain and ensures everyone has chance to contribute. 

For example, brainstorming ideas like brain-netting, mindmapping, word banking, and reverse brainstorming can get your ideas flowing faster so you can build better products. Plus, all of these ideas as well as backcasting and rapid writing can be done in your own time. And if you use Switchboard, you can try them all on a huge canvas that saves your work—and keeps the creative juices flowing. 

Generate more ideas, faster. 
Work side by side on any app, document, or file in Switchboard without sharing screens—so there’s nothing to interrupt your creative flow.     
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about group brainstorming activities

What is group brainstorming? 

Group brainstorming is when a group of people comes up with creative ideas in a set amount of time, using different brainstorming exercises. Then, they share ideas related to the brainstorming topic, and follow-up with implementation. 

What does group brainstorming accomplish?

Group brainstorming lets small groups come together to generate and share fresh ideas that can lead to better products, improved customer service, and improved team dynamics. 

Does group brainstorming have to be in real time? 

Group brainstorming doesn't have to be in real time or using in-person whiteboards or a piece of paper. Dispersed or remote teams can get their creative juices flowing through visual brainstorming tools like Switchboard, and use templates for idea generation from Notion, Jura, or Figma.

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Generate more ideas, faster.

Work side by side on any app, document, or file in Switchboard without sharing screens—so there’s nothing to interrupt your creative flow.