categories: creativity, innovation
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June 21st, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

9 comments (+ Add)

10 Guidelines for Effective Brainstorming

I’ve become a big fan of They provide a platform for people to release manifestos in a short ebook format. The best part is that many of them are great and all of them are free.

Randah Taher recently released “10 Guidelines for Effective Brainstorming”, and I thought it would be something that many of you would find useful.

Here are a couple of the guidelines:

10. Threaten Yourself

1. Come Prepared And Invite Others To Do So Too

7. Force Large Quotas

I’ll let you read it to unpack these and discover the rest. I’m curious…what are the best techniques that you have used to get great ideas?

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  1. 1Patrick Sievert
    Jun 21, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Statistics show that only about 6% of ideas are any good. For every one good idea you have, you’ll have 15 not-so-good ones.

    When I’m brainstorming, then, I try to come up with as many ideas as possible (I usually shoot for at least 20) as quickly as possible. I don’t take time to think about them, I just write them down.

    Then, instead of trying to tackle a problem from just one direction, I’ve got 20 different directions to come at it. I can take one idea and combine it with another, pull in a part from this other idea over here or over there, and now my idea is dynamic.

    When you start with just one idea, though, you tend to just keep cycling through that idea over and over again.

  2. Jun 21, 2007 at 8:48 am

    In a group, warming up is good. I played basketball in high school and we had a variety of passing and play drills we’d run before the game started to help us sharpen our skills and our minds, in preparation for the game.

    One of the simplest, but most effective brainstorming warm-ups I like to do in groups is something very similar to passing a ball…find an object (i.e., a small ball or a crumpled up piece of paper) and pick a topic completely unrelated to the meeting. Like…”If I could live anywhere, I’d live…” or “The worst movie I have ever seen is…” or a combination of several. Then, just pass, catch, answer - no slowing down, no taking time to think, only acting on gut answers.

    Somehow this breaks some of the tension and pressure a brainstorming meeting can have, and opens up the room a little bit more for air and exploration.

    Soft thinks are great - coming up with ideas you know are ridiculous (at my former church, once it was having an elephant on the stage)–but those insane ideas usually lead to something practical and useful. In this instance we ended up having a petting zoo for the kid’s programs, so it tied the weekend together nicely.

  3. 3Kyle T. Panter
    Jun 21, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Color me crazy, but I do some of the most effective brainstorming whenever I mow the yard. Something about the constant humming of the mower and the smell of frest-cut grass just stimulates the ol’ neurons, I guess!

  4. 4Tom
    Jun 21, 2007 at 11:23 am


    My name is Tom and I live in Philadelphia. I am 18 years old now. But about 8 years ago when I was ten, my mom took me to a pro wrestling match downtown. I was so traumatized by the whole experience that I have trouble brainstorming or getting my work done any more. Medication and therapy has helped, but I need something more.
    My boss wants me to brainstorm some new ideas within our company, but I have a mental block.
    Do you have any inside scoop or suggestions for overcoming the trauma I have sustained?


  5. Jun 21, 2007 at 6:08 pm


    As strange as it sounds, a big problem and a short amount of time to solve it helps me brainstorm.

  6. 6matthew
    Jun 21, 2007 at 9:43 pm


    Let me offer a couple of thoughts:

    1) Try using constraints. For example if I am trying to decide what to cook for dinner guests, I might challenge myself by saying “I will only cook with ingredients that are not in my pantry or something I have not cooked before or the whole meal has to be prepared in less than 5 minutes.”

    2) Try doing the opposite. For example, if you want to brainstorm on ‘how to have a fantastic dinner with friends’ instead brainstorm on all the ways you can create the worlds worst dinner experience.

    As an extra dose of fun, I always try to find the most brilliant person I know on the subject and ask them to disagree with all my brainstorming assumptions.

  7. Jun 21, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    “Threaten yourself” HA!

    I threaten myself to get out of bed in the morning

    I threaten myself to get in the shower at 6am

    I even threaten myself to sip the coffee that cant seem to lift itself from the table to my mouth. (Technology?? Catch up people!)

    Threatening works!

    Thanks for the post

  8. Jun 22, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Thanks! I’m using this in my next meeting. Great find.

  9. 9Aaron J. Havens
    Jun 22, 2007 at 5:05 pm
    greatest brainstorming tool created.