Ideally, your brainstorming session should result in a plethora of bright ideas that motivate your team and spark new creativity. However, these bright ideas don’t just happen with the flick of a switch — they require productive and thoughtful meetings, which is sometimes easier said than done. 

When your team is tasked with ideating new projects or solving a problem, they might feel too much pressure and avoid speaking up, or even clash with each other due to differences in opinions and methods. But with the right brainstorming techniques, you can provide structure and enable your team to not only come up with great ideas, but actually bring them to fruition. 

Use the following brainstorming tips in your next session to lead your team and ensure everyone is valued, heard, and free to express their thoughts openly and without judgment. 

The challenges of brainstorming

Group brainstorming sessions are one of the few areas where quantity is more important than quality. If you have more ideas to work with, you have a better chance of landing on one that’s actually worth carrying out. 

Which is why it’s important to ensure your team knows there are no bad ideas — and that criticism has no place in the meeting. But of course, you won’t always have a perfect session with no hurdles. You’ve likely faced a few common brainstorm challenges like: 

  • Extroverted team members dominating discussions 
  • Anchoring, or clinging to the first few ideas without moving on
  • A lack of preparation that results in awkward silence

None of these uncomfortable occurrences are conducive to a productive brainstorming meeting. Luckily, there are plenty of proven techniques and tips that help prevent these challenges. 

Helpful brainstorming techniques

From tried-and-true to a bit unorthodox, let’s walk through a few of the best ways to make the most of your brainstorming session. 


Storyboarding is good when you’re designing a process and need to see where your collective understanding fits with the proposed solution, as well as where you need more thought. 

To do so, you can develop a visual story and look at the problem like a narrative — this way your team can see how their ideas connect to build an overall solution. Start by handing out sticky notes and giving everyone a few minutes to jot down one idea on each piece. They don’t need to be complete thoughts, remember it’s quantity over quality. 

Once time’s up, arrange the sticky notes on a board and organize them as a continuous series. This way everyone can see where the connections lie and what can be eliminated. 

Word banking

Word banking is very similar to word association. But instead of focusing on pairs of words like in word association, word banking requires your team to form large groups of phrases that collectively describe a small collection of themes. 

Doing this can help you break your session down into manageable chunks. And when you’re finished with the word bank, you can make connections between the terms you ideated and use them to form ideas that include the most important priorities and goals. 

Six thinking hats

You’ll need at least six team members for this technique, each of whom wear imaginary hats that designate the angle they’ll focus on when looking at an idea. For example, one team member might wear the impact hat and only focus on the impact of an idea. Another team member might wear the hurdle hat and look at the constraints or limitations of the idea. 

Pick the angles that are most important to meeting your goals as an organization. By the end of the discussion, you should walk away with a well-rounded view of the ideas created. 

Round-robin brainstorming

If your team tends to be more introverted, this technique is a good way to get everyone out of their shells. Everyone is required to contribute at least one idea before the entire group gives feedback or contribute their second ideas. 

Using this method reinforces that there are no bad ideas and everyone in the group has a valued opinion. Since it’s required for each team member to contribute an idea, be sure to give them time to prepare before the session starts. 

Step-ladder brainstorming

This technique is great if you have a few team members who tend to be louder than the rest and influence other ideas. 

Step-ladder brainstorming works like this: A facilitator defines a topic for the group before asking all but two team members to leave the room. The remaining members discuss together for a few minutes, and then you welcome back another brainstormer into the room. That team member shares their ideas before the original brainstormers reveal what they came up with. 

This pattern continues until the entire group is back in the room. Then, everyone discusses the ideas they’ve collectively built in a step-by-step manner. 

Tips for conducting productive brainstorming sessions 

Regardless of the method you choose, you can use the following tips to make the most of your brainstorming session. 

Give your team time to prepare

The leader of the session shouldn’t be the only one that prepares ahead of time. Your team should have some context before walking into the meeting to ensure they’re in the right mindset. Ensuring this can be as easy as setting a meeting agenda and sending it out at least a day before. 

Set the intention 

Clearly define the goal of the brainstorming session, whether it’s coming up with quick wins for the end of the quarter or shoot-for-the-moon ideas for annual planning. Either way, make sure you’ve explained to your team the specific target you want to address. 

Create a safe space 

Remember, there are no bad ideas, so it’s important that your team feels comfortable enough to share anything that comes to mind without fear of judgment. You should also ensure each brainstormer has an equal amount of time to speak. You can set a timer and acknowledge when team members are overpowering the conversation to make this happen. 

Get creative 

Just like you encourage everyone to be comfortable, you should also encourage out-of-the-box thinking — even the imperfect thoughts. Start with a fun team building game, unique icebreaker question, or a silly ideation session to set the easygoing tone and encourage everyone to open up. 

Mix it up

There is no one-size-fits-all brainstorming technique — so be prepared to switch gears if your chosen method isn’t producing results. Pay attention to what your group is responding to and how many ideas are thrown out and try new tactics if you need to amp things up. 


If executed correctly, your team should view brainstorming sessions like an opportunity to express creativity as a group instead of like a stressful chore. After all, there’s something satisfying about seeing ideas come to fruition. 

And regardless of the project that comes out of the session, you’ll need a way to track the progress. Consider using Harvest to track the time your team spends on each project, ensure it stays on track, and better plan for the future. Get started with a free trial today.