Brainstorming Examples and Strategies
What is one brainstorming strategy that has helped encourage innovation in your business?
To help you consider ways to nurture innovation, we asked business leaders for their best advice. From utilizing online whiteboards to conducting the 100-year exercise, here are several tips that may help you generate ideas for adopting a more innovation-centered approach to business.
Here are 13 business brainstorming strategies that encourage innovation:
- Nurture Open Ideation
- Try the Format of L10 Meetings
- Mind Map Your Ideas
- Share Your Goals to Encourage Idea Sharing
- Utilize Online Whiteboards
- Start With a Timed Quick-Fire Exercise
- Create an Innovation Challenge
- Leverage the Power of the Mastermind
- Host an Annual Hackathon Event
- Bring in New Employees for Fresh Ideas
- Conduct the 100-Year Exercise
- Take Part in Virtual Brainstorming
- Schedule a Work Retreat
Nurture Open Ideation
We encourage constructive feedback when brainstorming. No idea is above being questioned or challenged. No idea is too silly to be discouraged without discussing it first. By bouncing ideas and criticisms off each other, we find solutions that are actually better than anything we might have come up with without any debate.
- Guy Katabi, Lightkey
Try the Format of L10 Meetings
Each week, our development team has L10 (Level 10) meetings, in which we discuss weekly statistics, to-do’s, issues, company wins, and more. This structure stays the same each week, and we rate the meeting out of 10 for how well the meeting went.
This is a great agile approach and gives team members autonomy in raising issues that can later be moved to to-dos. Furthermore, it prioritizes items for each team member to complete before we have our next L10 meeting. These meetings are a great way to spark innovation and switch up your internal strategy structure!
- Thylan Le, Markitors
Mind Map Your Ideas
Leonardo da Vinci turned complex ideas into simple visuals by creating mind maps. Mind mapping is a great way to create structure out of chaos from the brainstorm. Using mind mapping to brainstorm offers incredible flexibility for new ideas, especially at a time when many are still working and meeting remotely.
With screen share and sharing options on many mind mapping tools, clients and team members will love seeing their ideas come to life as strategies evolve with visual clarity. You can also easily refine the mind map of your ever-evolving ideas.
- Mark Jamnik, Enjoy Life Daily
Share Your Goals to Encourage Idea Sharing
It doesn’t matter what your role is at our company when brainstorming. Whatever your position, your thoughts and observations are welcome. With everyone working toward the same goal, we meet regularly with our employees where anyone can share ideas, no matter how crazy. We’re constantly striving for better products, and hopefully, those shared ideas can spur us on to bigger and better things.
- Henry Babicheknko, Stomadent
Utilize Online White Boards
We are big fans of online whiteboards for collaboration. Once per quarter, I bring my team together, and we brainstorm on one of these whiteboards. In the last meeting, we listed off ideas for more innovative benefits and perks that we can consider for 2022.
The reason we like virtual whiteboards so much is that you can add text, images, videos, draw free-hand, and more. The platform is truly excellent for collaboration!
- Melissa Kelly, Virtual Team Building
Start With a Timed Quick-Fire Exercise
Relying on quick-fire ideation as a brainstorming strategy has helped establish an innovative culture in my business. During the brainstorming session, each participant is required to jot down as many ideas as possible within 8 minutes.
Once the time is up, the meeting leader collects the notes from each participant and proceeds to secure them on the pinboard. Each idea is discussed for 5-7 minutes, and if the entire team agrees that it is viable, it advances to the next stage for further consideration. The ideas are debated until the entire team agrees on the most applicable one.
- Patrick Crane, Love Sew
Create an Innovation Challenge
Recognizing that we had a few different business processes that needed improvement, our leadership team hosted an innovation challenge. We were split into three groups, with each group being assigned a different business process.
From there, we were given the autonomy to work within our groups to come up with a new, creative way to handle that process. We then presented our ideas to the rest of the team and the "winning" team received a light bulb innovation trophy and, of course, bragging rights.
Even though one idea "won", we ended up implementing all three new processes! The team had a lot of fun and we came up with three fully-developed solutions in a matter of a few weeks!
- Alex Kouumdjieva, Maricopa Corporate College
Leverage the Power of the Mastermind
Several years ago, it seemed like every podcaster and author on my radar was touting the benefits of a traditional, peer-oriented mastermind group. It wasn't until I started one myself (for HR pros) that I realized how beneficial the format of conversation can truly be for building relationships and tackling common challenges.
Diversity of experience and perspective is key to avoiding the perils of homogeneity. Whether long-term or ad hoc in nature, mastermind groups can promote idea generation and lasting innovation that impact business at all levels!
- Erich Kurschat, Harmony Insights LLC
Host an Annual Hackathon Event
For the past two years, we have held an annual hackathon event where we spent a large portion of time focusing on company initiatives, rather than our day-to-day work. During this time, we improve processes and create new ones to make everyday work run smoother.
Having dedicated time for these brainstorming sessions also keeps us focused on innovation because we don’t have to worry that our normal workload is piling up.
- Jenn Fulmer, TechnologyAdvice
Bring in New Employees for Fresh Ideas
Brainstorming often focuses on the process and not the people involved, which is why one of the best techniques to spark ideas is to bring in new people who have fresh outlooks. Having recent hires participate in these sessions is a great way to break the stalemate, as often, veteran employees’ ideas are confined by a structure they have been accustomed to.
New employees also have experiences that may be unique to them, which they use to improve parts of your business. By viewing recent hires as a valuable idea resource to take part in brainstorming sessions, you will expand possibilities.
- Woody Sears, Hearhere
Conduct the 100 Year Exercise
A great existential exercise for business growth is to think about what the business looks like in 100 years. It forces everyone not to think about how the business affects themselves, but rather how the business, its customers, and the world will be different when we're no longer involved.
It puts you in a completely different mentality than a typical brainstorming session and puts the business on a long-range heading that everyone can strive for in unison.
- Simon Trask, Texas Outside
Take Part in Virtual Brainstorming
Virtual brainstorming is a timely technique to encourage innovation in the workplace, especially for remote work setups. This approach benefits teams that are not in the same office, state, or even country.
Using productivity tools like Google Docs, Quip, or Zoho Docs allows remote teams to add ideas in real-time. Even on different brainstorming schedules, participants can continue to submit ideas and discuss them separately as they go.
- Lisa Richards, The Candida Diet
Schedule a Work Retreat
While we’re a remote and hybrid company, we do like to get away every three months or so for a work retreat in a new location. While we have a lot of fun while we’re there, we also do some of our best brainstorming sessions.
We feel like getting everyone together in a unique setting really opens us up to fresh ideas. This experience allows us to determine which course to take as a company, as well as the objectives for the year.
- Jean Gregoire, Lovebox
Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association, SCORE.org
Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.