How to brainstorm effectively


Brainstorming is when one or more people storm a problem/challenge/issue and throw ideas at it from all sides.

And even if the problem is huge - the Elephant-Problem - it cannot stand up to an army of ideas - mice, lemurs, pterodactyls, flying saucers, look, and even ants are here:

mindmap brainstorm problem

Victory is assured if 1 condition is met - suspend the critic. 

Why? Because it will immediately close the gates to all ideas, including the fresh and cool ones. And it will open the gates to the standard and familiar. And not always the most effective ones.

For effectively brainstorm - lock the critic in the closet

That is, you don't have to think about "what it would take", "is there enough money" or "do I look ridiculous". On the contrary, the most fantastic ideas may turn out to be just what you need! 

The task of the brainstorming session is to prepare the ground for analysis. To sketch out a mountain of ideas so that there is plenty to choose from. Get out of the box and pile up fresh ideas, and then sort them out, throw some away, develop some. This is the stage where you should call the critic back in 🙂

The critic will show that an elephant weighs 3 tonnes. And an ant is 1-150 mg and can lift 50 times its own weight. And then it would only take 400,000 big ants to lift an elephant. And that's half an ant hill! And the anthill over there is just under that tree. And it costs nothing compared to 1 helicopter for hire, which has to be fueled and flown in from the capital.

So, how to brainstorm ideas?

Let's follow the rules: 

  • One or two words.
  • No criticism.
  • Yes to absurdity.
  • The more the better!

When you write ideas down briefly - ideally in 1 word - then imagination kicks in and new associations give birth to new ideas. 

how to brainstorm

Great, now let's look at how to organise the process itself! 

Group brainstorming

The following options can be used to generate business ideas as a team:

  • discuss and write ideas on the board;
  • everyone writes their thoughts on post-its;
  • brainstorming online in real time.

Brainstorm on whiteboard

The first method is suitable for extroverts, who are happy to shout out their ideas in a race. There are times when fountains of ideas turn into proving a point and arguing. Solutions may not fit on the board. And it's hard to move them around. And take a long time to write them down with one marker.

Brainstorm with post-its

Introverts are more inclined to write ideas on post-its and then put them out on the communal table for discussion. This is more productive because there are no arguments. But the discussion takes place already at the selection stage. And some of the ideas are left out.

group brainstorm on postits

Brainstorming online in a mind map

This option suitable for all team members. 

The presenter will no longer write on the whiteboard with a marker and wipe off the excess with his sleeve. He sits at his laptop. And this is especially relevant in a pandemic - you can get together for an audio or video conference, open a mind map and have everyone start storming through it in real time. 

Or a projector can be connected in the office at a meeting. And the extroverted part of the team can communicate and the presenter can write, while the introverted part can add their own thoughts quietly from their devices and to throw up new ideas.

Technically it's easy in IOctopus:

  • Several people can fill in the map at the same time.
  • Add branches.
  • Develop their own and others' ideas. 

This is convenient because the canvas is infinite, you can create new nodes, add links, add comments, and move branches around. 

In doing so, ideas are written into the mind map without looking back at authority. It doesn't matter who is boss and who is subordinate. There is no shyness or subordination. Brainstorming is in full swing, everyone is focused on solving a single problem.

brainstorm mindmap how to name bakery

With IOctopus, both Bob and Elise and Mr. Smith can join the assault at any time.

What if you brainstorm alone?

Many people think that this technique only works in a group. On the contrary,  brainstorming can be done alone. This is often even more effective. 

In silence or to your favourite music, catch the flow and immerse yourself in self-brainstorming. 

Not everything needs to be done as a team. Every manager and ordinary employee can use online brainstorming for their tasks - how best to solve a problem, how to increase department efficiency, sketch out priorities for the quarter, etc. And then share the map with colleagues in one click. 

A mind map can also help for personal purposes. When you need to compose a greeting, organise a wedding, choose an idea for a start-up or decide what to cook for dinner. 

mindmap dinner

You can even draw up a menu for the week with different food options.

To write or not to write

To illustrate, imagine that you are asked to write an essay for your studies or for your CV. And then you have to first decide on the topic, remember the structure, gather facts and arguments... You might get confused and freeze over a blank sheet of paper. 

It's a good time to remember the mind maps and brainstorm for an essay. 

Get everything together in one place:

  • one branch will remind you of the outline of what to write and why;
  • in another, you can generate topics;
  • a third branch would record quotes as they popped into your head;
  • and the number of branches is unlimited.

mindmap for brainstorm essay

And then it's easy and straightforward to merge it into text. 

Branches that are not needed at the moment can easily be rolled up. It's a lot easier than getting tangled up in leaves. Or trying to figure out what word has been erased from the board. Or drawing and correcting on a paper.


So now you know how to do brainstorming session effectively alone or as a team.

You can find out how easy to brainstorm online in the mindmap service IOctopus. Here's everything you need for a deep dive into ideas:

  • comprehensive functionality for these tasks,
  • minimum distractions
  • and organic, flexible branches as a visualisation of your thoughts. 

Try now Demo or Sign up - it is free!

Author of the article: Julia A.


See also

How to make a mind map

How to master all the key nuances of creating mind maps in 10 minutes? And most importantly, to master for years.  So that you don't have to go back to it.

It's easy with the quick, interactive assignments in this article.

Mind maps for business

Business is about strategy, planning, researching possible development options and choosing the best one. If you need a clear, easy-to-use tool, then take a look at how a mind map works in business.

business mind map