Brainstorming tips and techniques

Posted on: February 22nd, 2012

The arrival of a new client brief is often followed by a brainstorm session to workshop ideas. Sure, plenty of ideas are thrown around, but are they really the BEST ideas and does everyone get a say?

Author Susan Cain has some interesting opinions on brainstorms and ‘groupthink’. Cain suggests that we are surrounded by a groupthink that promotes the group over the individual, which can happen in brainstorms. Moreover, groupthink and brainstorms can be intimidating for creative and / or introverted colleagues. According to Cain, people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption, as solitude is a catalyst to innovation.

Another reason that brainstorms can be ineffective is that creative types tend to sit back and let others do the talking. They can also be lead to mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own, or succumb to the peer pressure of groupthink.

So how can we have better brainstorms? Here are some tools that we have found helpful in conducting a more fruitful brainstorm for everyone in our office – introverts and extroverts alike!

Speed Thinking
At a PRIA course I was introduced to the concept of ‘speed thinking’, by Dr. Ken Hudson. Hudson is an advocate of Speed Thinking for time-poor teams who want to become more productive, innovative and energised (sounds like a PR agency to me!). Speed Thinking is based on the principle that if you encourage people to accelerate their thinking by restricting their time, ideas will flow more readily. Why? You don’t have time to filter your initial thoughts, instead you just create or solve or decide without listening to your own (or the group’s) critical mind.

The Blitz Tool
To get the most out of Speed Thinking, try using The Blitz Tool. It has a standardised template to help guide participants via six golden principles:

  1. It should take 15 minutes or less
  2. Involve six people or less (we often have more people involved and it works fine)
  3. Focus on one challenge only (this may mean breaking down the brief into smaller parts)
  4. The brainstorm can be called by anyone
  5. Follow the semi-structured, four step process
  6. The leader is still accountable for the challenge (i.e. must follow up on the ideas generated!)


We’ve used this tool for a variety of our clients and have found that at the end of each session each person feels like they have contributed equally and all ideas have been heard. Try it out at your next brainstorm and compare the quantity (and quality) of ideas that are generated in just 15 minutes using The Blitz Tool, compared to a more traditional brainstorm.

What do you find works best to foster a good brainstorm?

To read the original articles or read more on brainstorming check out:


Posted by Nicole Rodger

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