Generate new ideas by initiating a brainstorm session

If you’re looking to generate new ideas, one way to do so is to initiate a brainstorm session. This can be done with a group of people, either in person or remotely. Brainstorm sessions are intended to be creative and open-ended, so that all participants feel free to share their thoughts and ideas. Once you have a list of ideas, you can then start to narrow them down and choose which ones to pursue further.

Team brainstorm around sticky note board

When to plan a brainstorm session

A brainstorm session can be useful in a variety of situations, such as:

  • When you're starting a new project and need to generate ideas.
  • When you're stuck on a problem and need to find a creative solution.
  • When you want to get input from others on an idea or concept.

Of course, there are also situations where a brainstorm session might not be your best choice. For example, if you're working on a time-sensitive project with a tight deadline, you might not have the luxury of taking the time to brainstorm. In these cases, it's often best to just move forward with the ideas you have and come up with new ones later.

How to: Set up a brainstorm session

Planning and preparation are key to a successful brainstorm session. Here are some steps you should take before getting started:

1. Start by defining the objective

What are you hoping to achieve? This will help to focus the brainstorm and keep it on track.

2. Choose who will participate

Who do you need input from? This will help to ensure that the right people are in the room (or on the call) and that the session is productive. Ideally, you'll want a mix of different perspectives and experiences.

3. Choose a format

Brainstorm sessions can be done in person, remotely, or even over email. Consider what format will work best for your group.

4. Decide on a structure

The right template can help facilitate a productive and successful brainstorm session. Here are a couple of suggestions:

Lean coffee template

Start with an open conversation and then move into voting on the most important topics. Use this template when you want to cover a variety of topics quickly.

MoSCoW matrix template

This template is best used when you’re looking for a structured way to prioritize ideas and tasks. Use the MoSCoW matrix to distinguish which tasks are Musts, Shoulds, Coulds, and Wont’s to help focus resources on the most important items.


A focus on the elements of a problem and identifying new solutions. This model can be used to help you think outside the box and come up with new ideas.

Lightning Decision Jam

This template is best used when there’s a need to make decisions quickly, such as when working with tight timelines.

5. Set a time limit

Brainstorming sessions can sometimes go off on tangents, so it's helpful to set a time limit upfront. This will help to keep the session focused and on track.

6. Choose a facilitator

It can be helpful to choose a facilitator for the session, especially if you're working with a large group. The facilitator's role is to keep the session moving and make sure that everyone has a chance to share their ideas.

7. Set the rules

Before starting the brainstorming session, it's important to set some ground rules. This will help to keep the session focused and on track. Some common rules include:

  • Encourage all ideas to be shared, no matter how "out there" they may seem.
  • Don't allow anyone to criticize or judge any ideas.

How to: Facilitate a brainstorm session

As a leader, you play an important role in ensuring that the brainstorming session is productive and effective. Here are some tips for facilitating a brainstorming session:

1. Create a safe and open environment

It's important that all participants feel safe to share their ideas. This means that no one should feel like they're being judged or critiqued.

2. Get started by sharing the objective of the session

All participants should be aware of the session objective so that they can focus their ideas.

3. Give everyone a chance to share their ideas

It can be helpful to go around the room or have everyone type their ideas into a shared document. This ensures that everyone has a chance to share their thoughts.

4. Once all ideas have been shared, start to narrow them down

Once you have a list of ideas, it's time to start narrowing them down. This can be done by voting, eliminating duplicate ideas, or combining similar ideas. The goal is to identify the best and most feasible ideas so that you can move forward with them.

5. Choose the best ideas to pursue further

Choosing the best ideas will likely involve some discussion and debate. Once the group has made a decision, you can start to develop a plan for how to implement the chosen ideas.

6. Assign tasks and deadlines for pursuing the chosen ideas

Once you have a plan, it's important to assign tasks and realistic deadlines so that the ideas can be pursued in a timely and efficient manner.

7. Follow up after the session to see how it went and what could be improved next time.

It's always helpful to debrief after a brainstorming session and see what worked well and what could be improved for next time. This will help to ensure that future sessions are even more productive.

How to: Get the most out of a brainstorm session

1. Encourage creativity

The whole point of a brainstorm is to generate new and creative ideas, so it's important to encourage this kind of thinking. One way to do this is to provide prompts or questions that will help to stimulate new ideas.

2. Be open to all ideas

Remember, the goal is to generate new ideas, so don't reject any ideas outright. Instead, let all the ideas be shared, and then you can narrow them down later.

3. Be respectful

It's important to respect everyone's ideas and not dismiss them outright. This will help to create a more open and collaborative environment.

4. Avoid criticism

Brainstorming is not the time for criticism or judgement. Instead, it's a time to generate new ideas and think outside the box.

5. Keep it focused

It's important to keep the session focused so that you can make the most of the time. This can be done by setting a time limit and having a clear objective.

6. Take breaks

If the session is starting to lose energy, it can be helpful to take a break. This will help to refresh everyone and keep the ideas flowing.

7. Follow up timely

After the session, it's helpful to follow up with the participants to see how it went. This will help to ensure that future sessions are even more productive.

8. Have fun

Brainstorming can be a lot of fun if you let it be. Encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, and you'll be sure to have a productive session.

Things to take-away

  • Brainstorming is a great way to generate new ideas.
  • It's important to be open to all ideas and respectful of everyone's input.
  • Keep the session focused and take breaks as needed.
  • Follow up after the session to see what worked well and what could be improved next time.

About me

Hi, I’m Lilian. I’m currently the head of a design team in a digital agency in Amsterdam and love to write about leadership and share tips based on my experience over the past couple of years.

Lead by design

I decided to start this blog as a way to share my thoughts on leadership. I’m passionate about helping others learn more about leadership and how to be a good leader, so I hope this blog will be helpful to those who are looking for tips and advice on leadership.

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