Brainstorming is one of the simplest tools for solving problems. So why does everyone seem to break all the rules?


  1. Keep control: Only one idea at a time, no side discussions, stay focused on the top at hand, initially just do a brain dump, don’t try to debate each item

  2. There are no dumb ideas. It is a brainstorming session, not a serious matter that requires only serious solutions. Remember, this can be one of the more fun tools, so keep the entire team involved!

  3. Don’t criticize other people’s ideas. This is not a debate, discussion or forum for one person to display superiority over another. No judging others, no side comments, no criticism and also no praise (ie if you praise one idea and not another, people will stop thinking of new ideas).

  4. The Crazier the Better. A variation is you can get people to think way out there and come up with what may seem like impossible ideas. This creative method can produce not only funny suggestions, but can lead to a real one that has never been considered before.

  5. Build on other people’s ideas. Often an idea suggested by one person can trigger a bigger and/or better idea by another person. It is this building of ideas that leads to out of the box thinking and potentially the best solutions.

  6. Reverse the thought of “quality over quantity.” Here we want quantity; the more creative ideas the better. As a facilitator, you can even make it a challenge to come up with as many ideas as possible and compare this team’s performance to the last brainstorming session you conducted.

The basic brainstorming procedure is to:

  1. Review the rules of brainstorming with the entire group.
  2. Review the topic or problem to be discussed.
  3. Allow a minute or two of silence for everyone to think about the question.
  4. Invite people to call out their ideas. Record all ideas, in words as close as possible to those used by the contributor. Using Sticky Notes is a good way to do this as you can move them around into categories later in the exercise.
  5. Continue to generate and record ideas until several minutes’ silence occurs.
  6. When all ideas are generated, you can now use a prioritization process to have the team select the top ideas to act on.