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The alternative ways of doing brainstorming

Kirjoittanut: Irene Lai - tiimistä SYNTRE.

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Brainstorming. What is it? 


Surely everyone knows what a brainstorming is. It is actually funny what the name really means, if you never thought of it.  The term is nowadays commonly used in English language, which has become internationally used too, but it became popular only during the ‘50’s thanks to Alex Osborn and his book called “Applied Imagination”. This word indicates in fact a creative way of thinking to solve a specific problem or to find any kind of solution within a group, collecting a list of ideas provided spontaneously and without inhibitions by all the participants. Even though we talk about it from 50’s, the procedure dates back to and is similar to the Quaestiones disputate, exercises carried out in medieval schools where a question or reflection was articulated in such a way as to stimulate discussion among students. The techniques used nowadays and even then during the brainstorming phase facilitate creativity and in so doing stimulate the participants to express their ideas freely, interacting with those of others. Scientific research has shown that this principle is highly productive in both individual effort and teamwork. Of course, in group brainstorming, the comments of the participants encourage everyone’s ideas, in a sort of chain reaction of the creation. It is widely used in creative contexts, such as advertising agencies for example, but it can have different area of applicability. Other than in entrepreneurship, brainstorming is so useful that many schools also use it with children, to teach them how to share different points of view freely.  The process simply allows one to concentrate on a problem, no matter how big or small, and examine alternative vantage points so they can arrive at a new and innovative solution. But how to optimize it? And thinking out of a box, is there only one type of brainstorming?  Of course not. After selecting the topic, there are different ways to brainstorm about it and I have selected three different techniques of doing it in an out of the ordinary way. 




  • Silent brainstorming 


It might be the perfect way to start a brainstorming session. Everyone will have two minutes and nothing but a pen, a pad of post-it notes and a lot of creativity to write down. After giving people a problem statement, the group has to focus on it individually and silently come up with as many ideas as possible. Instead of responding to the question verbally, everyone has to write down their ideas.
At the end of those two minutes each participant can share them to the others. The foundation of brainstorming anyway is the generation of ideas, individually or in a group, avoiding to give an immediate judgement. Therefore, the silent brainstorming assures it by creating a safe environment for everyone to think by their own at first and giving also more shy persons enough confident to share their thoughts then. Profits of this method: 

  • It guarantees that everyone – reserved persons included – gets the chance to contribute; 
  • It generates a lot of ideas really quickly; 
  • It ensures you focus on the task instead of useless talking; 
  • It gives full participation and commitment from the whole group. 



  • Reverse brainstorming 


Are you a natural talent to see more problems than solutions? Check this out, maybe this could be your favorite way to brainstorm. This is in fact a technique that combines brainstorming and reversal methods. So, instead of asking a group to collect ideas that would solve a problem, the group brainstorms all the possible ways so that a plan could fail. Criticizing what the plan is like can be effective and strategic to improve it. It can be easier this way to analyze all the possible gaps in a plan that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought about.  What happens if COVID-19 pandemic strikes again? What if people would stop eating milk? All the possible and unpredictable scenarios are good to develop an existing plan and to make it more efficient in a way that you know already how you would react in that situation in order to make it work anyway. Why this method is good: 

  • To help people that usually can’t see problems when they are too confident about their plan; 
  • To change people’s perspective and to look at things upside down; 
  • To improve an existing plan considering all the possible problems about it; 
  • To predict what can happen to the original plan if it would fail and to foresee how to react in that case; 
  • To ask for deeper feedbacks. 



  • Progressive questioning: Questions are the Answers


“Questions are much more powerful than answers”. This is what Hal Gregersen says, challenging leaders to ask better questions to their teams. And again “the important and difficult job is never to find the right answers, it is to find the right question. For there are few things as useless, if not dangerous, as the right answer to the wrong question.” said Peter Drucker (Question Burst, Peter Fisk). Assuming that everyone of us is different, doing the right question to someone that is not thinking like you may be an extraordinary technique to have different kind of answers. The advantage of doing the right questions to rise different points of view is in to scratch that surface of comfort zone and to put yourself in front of a new perspective of the problem. The real challenge in this way of doing this kind of brainstorming is to put ourselves in a situation that cause us to face the problem differently. How to do it? It takes just three simple steps, as an individual or a team.  After choosing a challenge or a situation you have and want to solve, the only rules are: set a timer and spend four-five minutes to generate nothing but questions about the problem you have; the most important point is not to answer any of the questions and not to explain the others why you are asking those. Now that you have all the questions, choose the most inspiring one out of the list and work on finding their answers. Why this method is good: 

  • Since some questions sometimes are too vague, this kind of brainstorming can help to define why something is worth doing, why it is not and what question really needs an answer; 
  • To enhance critical thinking; 
  • To get a different perspective of the situation through questioning; 
  • To generate a total new expanded aspect of an idea. 






An effective brainstorming is essential to any kind of business meeting.  It has been proved to be a well-known method for generating new ideas especially in the business world.  First of all, it allows people to express themselves freely, without limiting them in any way. Brainstorming promotes the interest of the group, making the involvement uniform and helping to develop the team spirit. Last but not least, it is perfect to allow everyone to produce a large number of ideas very quickly.  Advantages of brainstorming are many, as I already said, but not only for the team. So firstly, brainstorming is a great way to improve your skill to approach individually a problem in a freer way. You will fill more positive about the whole situation and you will have more ideas on how to face the problem. Brainstorming is in fact a technique used to promote the manifestation of individual imagination on the one hand, and the interaction and the synergy between the thoughts and intuitions of all participants on the other. There are many ways of brainstorm and combining those different techniques is absolutely more effective than traditional brainstorming, especially within a multicultural team, to encourage creativity in groups and to let different minds to produce high quality and effective ideas together. Thinking out of the box, verbally or silently, is always the key to unleash the creativity and changing your own perspective, through questions instead of solutions and with reversal thinking for example, is absolutely the best way to approach a brainstorming session.  









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