Brainstorming, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is:
“a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group” (source)
Alex F. Osborn, who worked in advertising, made the term mainstream in the 1940s and 1950s. However, brainstorming had been practiced long before then as an overall concept for people to come up with ideas (source).
What is brainstorming?
A brainstorming session involves people meeting (either in person or virtually), to discuss, draw out, explain, and write down ideas to solve problems or to create something new.
Note that you can also brainstorm by yourself. Even though solo-brainstorming isn’t included in the dictionary definition, coming up with a list of ideas on your own is just as much brainstorming as group-brainstorming is.
Some classify meetings and brainstorming sessions as the same thing because, in most meetings, the participants are discussing ideas or solving problems. While this makes sense, you can also have a brainstorming session that isn’t a “meeting”.
Meetings are usually done in work or educational settings, whereas brainstorming can be done at any time, by anyone, for any reason. For example, a couple might brainstorm at home about their upcoming wedding, or an individual might brainstorm alone about ideas for a book they want to write.
Why do people brainstorm?
Brainstorming sessions are done for one main reason — to generate ideas!
All participants are expected to throw out any ideas they have, even if they seem too simple, too complex, or too odd, because they just might work. If not, it’s great to have a backlog of ideas for future use.
Ideas can always be narrowed down and thought of in more detail as your process progresses, but initial brainstorming is the time to think freely and openly.
How is brainstorming done?
Brainstorm sessions, just like formal meetings, work well when they are planned ahead of time so that you and your team (or just you) have something to focus on.
Invite people who you want to brainstorm with and set a goal or general-purpose for the session. Also, consider inviting people outside of your core team to get a new and different perspective.
You can have someone that acts as a leader or guide, but since a brainstorming session is usually less formal than a meeting, this isn’t necessary. If you are in a professional work setting, having a facilitator might work best — but if you are brainstorming in a casual setting, try letting the ideas flow freely without someone organizing you.
Don’t let the brainstorming session last forever.
Keep it within an approximate time limit, but also have some flexibility, because creative ideas don’t always arise when you are under pressure.
Your guide to brainstorming with Stormboard
You may think of brainstorming as sitting around a table with sticky notes or a whiteboard, which works well, but going digital can be even better, and Stormboard’s innovative features are the answer to all of your brainstorming needs!
Once you’ve selected a template and are working in your Storm (what we call your digital workspace), try changing the colors, shapes, and fonts of your Sticky notes to organize and get creative with your ideas.
You can access your Storms from any device at any time — so if an idea pops into your head in the middle of the night, when you’re out for a run, or after your session is over, you can add it when inspiration strikes. It will be saved and ready for your brainstorming group to see it whenever they jump into the Storm.
If you have a scheduled brainstorming session with a remote team, you can all add and share ideas from wherever you are located, in real-time. And one of the best features is that everything saves automatically to the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about any of your awesome ideas getting lost or deleted.
Brainstorming, just like the official definition, is all about ideas. If you have an upcoming project that needs to be worked on, a problem to be solved, or anything else that requires the generation of ideas, brainstorming is going to be the best approach for you!
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