Super-quick Brainstorming Workshop

The outcome of this workshop is to get a curated list of solutions and ideas that help overcome a challenge.

A brainstorming workshop is very dynamic and can be carried out effectively in something like 10 minutes. It's a great exercise that can involve the whole team or just a couple of people. We would recommend creating groups of no more than 10 people.

Overview

The outcome of this workshop is to get a curated list of solutions and ideas that help overcome a challenge.

A brainstorming workshop is very dynamic and can be carried out effectively in something like 10 minutes. It's a great exercise that can involve the whole team or just a couple of people. We would recommend creating groups of no more than 10 people.

Materials needed:

Digital: you will only need to import the Mural template in your workspace and know how to use sticky notes and how to manage a voting session.

Old school: A block of Square Sticky notes per person(any colour) + A sharpie per person + a Time Timer or similar visual timer + Voting Dots (any colour) + our template that you can download below.

Introduction

This is the fastest and easiest brainstorming method to kick start the big thinking before moving to practical things. We use it every time we have a new product or service we would like to launch or every time we need to organise an event.

For X.Festival for example, we have regular brainstorming sessions: a brainstorming workshop is lightweight, fun and super useful! The only thing you need to start a brainstorming session is a topic. The topic could be really anything:

  • Generating ideas for new Facebook ad copy
  • Generating headline ideas for a new landing page
  • Generating ideas to improve your business environment
  • Generating ideas for a company event

How might we ...?

All you have to do as the facilitator of the session is turn the topic you want to brainstorm into a "How Might We" phrased challenge - we have other workshops where we mention this. Basically, you need to rephrase your challenge or topic into something actionable by starting with "How might we ...?"

So instead of starting with something negative like: "We need to think of ways to improve the contactless experience" you rephrase it to something that offers more opportunity, like: "How Might We Improve the contactless experience."

Step 1: Generate!

(5 minutes)

Once you have an HMW written and your team agree on it, it's time to start your session!

The key to this exercise is one of the core principles of every workshop we run: even though everyone will be working toward the same goal, everyone will be contributing individually (Without discussion, without sharing, completely anonymously).

The first step is all about Idea Generation. It's not about good ideas, it's about having a lot of ideas: for once we preach Quantity over quality! It's important to repeat that to your team members as they go through this section.

  1. Give each team member a block of sticky notes and a sharpie or if you are doing this digitally, make sure everyone is comfortable using the tool and knows how to add ideas.
  2. Tell each member to write as many ideas as they possibly can for the HMW challenge. One idea per Sticky note and with legible handwriting. Remind everyone that bad ideas don't exist, so worry not! They must write a minimum of ideas, say 10, but up to 20 is preferable. That might seem like a lot but remember QUANTITY, not quality.
  3. Set the timer to 5 minutes and let everybody write ideas in silence.
  4. When members are feeling stuck (look for people stopping writing and looking like they're thinking too much!) encourage them to keep on writing even if they don't have any new ideas.

It's good to play some music in the background as ideas are being generated. 🎶

Once the 5 minutes are up, tell everyone to stop what they are doing.

Step 2: Polish!

(1 minute)

Each team member should now have a stack of ideas, since we went for quantity over quality, at least 50% of these ideas won't even be usable. The next step will be the first pass at finding the most promising ideas.

Here are the next steps:

  1. Ask each member to choose their favourite 10 ideas from their stack of ideas.
  2. Each member should now discard all their non-chosen ideas (throw them away or delete the sticky note)
  3. The 10 chosen ideas will be on the digital board or will be stuck up on a wall/whiteboard/whatever surface is available.
  4. The participants should NOT group or arrange the sticky notes. In fact, mix them up as much as possible.

Step 3: Vote!

(3 minutes)

Now let's try to figure out which ideas the team thinks are the most promising. In a normal brainstorming process, this would be a circular discussion with no end-point. In 10 for 10, it's just part of the process.

  1. As the facilitator, remove any duplicated ideas from the surface.
  2. Give each team member a strip of 10 voting dots or assign 10 votes on the digital board.
  3. Tell them to vote on the ideas they think are the most promising, reminding them of the HMW challenge. Voting rules: Participants can vote on their own ideas. They cannot ask for further explanation of an idea.
  4. Participants must also use all of their 10 dots in the 3 minutes. Set a timer so that people don't overthink.

Of course, there is a bias to put your dots where other dots are already. The point here is to force people to actually read the ideas by having them focus on voting. The voting also gives us a loose idea of which ideas the team members like the best. It's not scientific, but it reduces the need for conversation.

Step 4: Arrange!

(1 minute)

The final part is simply about visualising the results of the voting.

Reorganise the voted-on ideas on your surface so that the ideas with the most votes are at the top and the ideas with no votes are removed from the board.

What you now have visualised in front of you is 10 or fewer ideas that your team thinks have a good chance of solving for the HMW challenge set at the beginning of the exercise. Cutting your brainstorming time and transforming it into solid ideas with the potential to move forward.

Conclusion

That's it!

Now imagine trying to get to those 10 ideas with a normal discussion. Would it have taken 10 minutes? No. Would the ideas have been as varied? No.

The workshop forces a team to think quick, to be brutal with their curation, and get less attached to specific ideas. Idea generation should be lightweight and fast, especially for things that shouldn't require hours of discussion.

This is great for getting a read on what solutions are in the room and what ideas people have in their minds but would find it difficult to articulate in a conversation. It's also a fantastic warm-up exercise before jumping into something more serious.

A brainstorming workshop is very dynamic and can be carried out effectively in something like 10 minutes. It's a great exercise that can involve the whole team or just a couple of people. We would recommend creating groups of no more than 10 people.