15 Creative Exercises That Are Better Than Brainstorming

15 Creative Exercises That Are Better Than Brainstorming

Brainstorming Techniques Storyboarding Mind Mapping Group Sketching Word Banking Analysis Six Thinking Hats Zero Draft Brain Netting Questioning Assumptions Wishing Alter-Egos / Heroes Forced Connections Reverse Brainstorming Brain-Writing Visual Activities 1. By developing a visual story to explore the problem at hand as a narrative, your team will be able to see how ideas interact and connect to form a solution. Each member of your team will sketch an image related in a central way to a concept, idea or topic you want to explore further. While word associations often focus on pairs of words, word banking asks you to form big groups of terms that all describe just a few themes or topics. Well, it also happens to be a helpful brainstorming exercise. The method involves breaking down ideas into six areas of thought: When approaching a new problem or project, have each member of your team put on one of these different "hats" for the discussion. Brain Netting Creative exercises and ideas meetings always go better the more people you have in the room. When you reverse brainstorm, you essentially work to create problems rather than solutions. Brain-Writing In this exercise, participants simply write down a few rough ideas for solving a particular problem on a piece of paper.

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brainstorming-activities

We’re all familiar with traditional brainstorming as a way to produce new ideas. You sit in a room with a whiteboard and work with whatever comes to mind. Maybe you play a few rounds of word association to strengthen your ideas, or pull up Google and use research to flesh them out.

But there are many alternative exercises for tackling problems and developing new ideas, both individually and in a group setting.

Ranging from structured to silly, here are 15 creative brainstorming exercises and techniques to help you get your problem-solving juices flowing.

Brainstorming Techniques

  1. Storyboarding
  2. Mind Mapping
  3. Group Sketching
  4. Word Banking
  5. S.C.A.M.P.E.R.
  6. S.W.O.T. Analysis
  7. Six Thinking Hats
  8. Zero Draft
  9. Brain Netting
  10. Questioning Assumptions
  11. Wishing
  12. Alter-Egos / Heroes
  13. Forced Connections
  14. Reverse Brainstorming
  15. Brain-Writing

Visual Activities

1. Storyboarding

Five panels on a pink storyboarding graphic for brainstorming

If you’re trying to design a process, storyboarding can help you see where your collective understanding of a problem supports or conflicts with a proposed solution, and where more thought/research is needed. By developing a visual story to explore the problem at hand as a narrative, your team will be able to see how ideas interact and connect to form a solution.

Sticky notes are your friend. Take a few minutes to have everyone on the team write out their ideas as individual notes. These don’t have to be complete thoughts — physically pinning up quotes, pictures, user info, and the like can help you see new relationships between different components.

Once you have a group of sticky notes to work from, start arranging them on the board as a progression: first this, then that. Organizing your ideas as a continuous series will help you see new connections and eliminate extraneous material that doesn’t support your end goal.

2. Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a fairly common term nowadays — in fact, many types of software provide automated mind-mapping templates so you can better organize your data. Well, it also happens to be a great way to organize your ideas.

  • To create a mind map for creativity purposes, write down the task or problem you’re trying to solve at the center of your idea sheet (feel free to do this on your computer, but whiteboards are ideal).
  • Then, expand on this problem by surrounding it with terms that better describe what you need. If your problem is low website traffic, for example, some terms to write around this phrase might be “organic traffic,” “trusted content,” “SEO,” and “video strategy.”
  • Once your mind map has this first layer, add a second layer to each of your needs describing how you might be able to solve for these individual challenges. Around “SEO,” you might write “topic clusters,” “dedicated SEO strategist,” and “video marketing course.”

Keep adding to your mind map using the steps above until you’ve sufficiently broken down your problem into manageable parts. It’s a fantastic problem-solving technique that fosters creative answers to subjects that might otherwise seem uninspiring.

3. Group Sketching

Pink drawing on piece of paper for group sketching

You don’t have to be an artist or a designer to benefit from sketching. Visual thinking can help to trigger and develop ideas that discussion and writing might otherwise leave unturned. Similar to brain-writing, group sketching involves participants building on each other’s ideas.

Each member of your team will sketch an image related in a central way to a concept, idea or topic you want to explore further. Each sketch is then passed to someone else, who sketches another related image on the same piece of paper. This is repeated multiple times around the group. The final images are then reviewed and discussed with the aim of discovering connections that individuals hadn’t spotted on their own.

Idea Sorting Techniques

4. Word Banking

If you assume “work banking” is a fancy term for “word association,” well, you’re right. But in a word banking session, what you do with the words you come with is much more sophisticated.

While word associations often focus on pairs of words, word banking asks you to form big groups of terms that all describe just a few themes or topics. Creating word banks in a business setting can help you dismantle a project into manageable parts — kind of like a mind map, as described in technique #2 earlier in this article.

Then, when your work bank is complete, you can retroactively form connections between the terms you came up with, and use those connections to craft ideas that are guaranteed to include all of your most important characteristics.

5. S.C.A.M.P.E.R.

Mobile device surrounded by pink icons showing the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. brainstorming technique

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is essentially a process for expanding and improving upon ideas by testing and questioning them from different angles. For each letter of the mnemonic, ask yourself a related question about your project or the problem at hand:

  • Substitute, e.g.: What would happen to the project if we swapped X for Y?
  • Combine, e.g.: What would happen to the project if we combined X and Y?
  • Adapt, e.g.: What changes would need to be made to adapt this project to a different context?
  • Modify, e.g.: What could we modify to create more value on this project?
  • Put to another use, e.g.: What other uses or applications might this project have?
  • Eliminate, e.g.: What could we remove from the project to simplify it?
  • Reverse, e.g.: How could we reorganize this project to make it more effective?

This method forces you to approach your project or problem in unexpected ways. Each question asks you to dig a little deeper into the issue and consider new possibilities.

6. S.W.O.T. Analysis

Entrepreneurs and business leaders know exactly what a SWOT analysis is. Well, it also happens to be a helpful brainstorming exercise.

S.W.O.T. stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. And when launching a company,…

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