In my recent post on “6 Ways to Inspire Creativity in Your Brainstorming Session,” I mentioned that starting off with a creative exercise is a great way to stimulate the imagination and spark productivity in your team. As a follow up, here are six exercises designed to stir up those creative juices and give your team a boost to start producing innovative ideas. Whether you know what you want to do and just need to figure out how to do it, or want to come up with a brand new idea, the following exercises can help energize your group brainstorm.
1. Rapid Fire
Pose your brainstorming topic and ask someone to volunteer the first idea. Have them stand before the group and instruct your team to ask rapid-fire questions about the idea. This helps draw out more organic responses because of the limited timeframe for answering. It’s also an energetic way to get the entire group involved. This exercise moves from one idea to another quickly, exploring new territories and ideas that may lead your team to innovative and unexpected discoveries.
2. Free Writing
This classic exercise helps generate ideas through internal reflection. While it doesn’t provide a wide range or large quantity of ideas, it can provide in-depth insights on a specific topic. Free writing is most effective when you’ve already identified a concept and need to figure out how to bring it to life. After posing your brainstorming topic, have your team sit silently and write out their ideas during a pre-set time limit. Once time is up, have the team review each other’s work and share any unique or interesting points. Together, discuss and build on these points. The writing solo portion of this exercise taps into parts of the brain that verbal exchange doesn’t and encourages less outgoing team members to contribute their thoughts.
3. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a great exercise to help your team draw inspiration from a word or concept. Start by writing your central word in the middle of a board at the front of the room. Ask your team to shout out related words and write them on the board, drawing a line connecting each to the root of its inspiration. As your map grows larger, it will become more diverse and expand to include a broader range of words and thoughts. Keep building the map outwards in all directions as your team continues to generate words. Afterwards, collectively analyze the map for unique and interesting connections and select a few favorite groupings of words. Have your team discuss these groups in relation to the original brainstorming topic. You never know what a word might inspire, and this exercise helps your group examine previously unexplored ideas and concepts.
4. Bridge Building
This exercise is fitting for when you know where you are and where you want to be, but need to figure out how to get from here to there. Begin by visually identifying the starting and ending point of your bridge on a board or wall. Ask your team to generate ideas that connect these points and write each one on a sticky note. Then, group together notes that share similar strategies or are interrelated. After everyone’s ideas are sorted, stand back and discuss how they fit together on a larger scale. This exercise helps your team build a bridge, through one big idea or several smaller ones, leaving you with different ways to get you where you want to be.
5. Brainstorming Circuit
Ideas can be hard to explore in a large group because it’s easy for one voice to get lost among others. This exercise offers a quick and efficient way to develop a concept by challenging smaller groups to brainstorm against each other. Divide your team into smaller groups in separate areas of the room and give each a topic related to the brainstorm. Ask groups to discuss and write down their thoughts during a pre-set time limit. Then, have groups leave their idea as is and move to another group’s station. Have each one briefly review the previous group’s notes before brainstorming on the same topic. Continue this process until all groups have visited each station. Afterwards, have everyone move back to their original station and review the collective work. Ask each group to share their favorite concepts to the entire team and discuss how you could build on these shared ideas to address the larger brainstorming concept.
6. 0 to 60
This exercise uses speed to help your team generate a large number of ideas quickly, while inhibiting their ability to filter their thoughts. Start by posing the topic driving your brainstorming session. Break your team into smaller groups, set a time limit and have them generate a list of 60 ideas. Once each group finishes, review the ideas and have everyone vote for their favorite. Spend the rest of your session discussing and building on the most popular ideas.