Group brainstorming is a difficult dance. We expect a movie montage of whiteboards and breakthroughs, but we often end up with one or two people taking the wheel while the rest of us try to gather and articulate our thoughts. Adding a little structure to the agenda goes a long way. These 5 techniques can help you get the most out of the thinkers on your team:
Nominal Group Technique (NGT)
Each person generates ideas on their own before reconvening with the group for discussion. This technique limits interruptions, ensures that everyone has space to contribute, and allows for the group to refine ideas together.
This approach is well suited for a remote environment. Participants use a shared digital platform—like FigJam—to contribute ideas simultaneously.
This is a generative exercise that prioritizes solo brainstorming without a structured group discussion. Participants work through ideas on paper or digitally without external influences, focusing on the thorough exploration and expansion of their thought processes. These ideas can then be passed along to other collaborators for review and feedback.
The approach optimizes the brainstorming process by implementing guidelines to keep participants on track. A common technique is to divide the session into phases—an initial period in which participants may freely express ideas without judgment, followed by a discussion and evaluation phase to generate feedback.
This technique begins with participants generating ideas on their own. Next, two participants share their ideas with each other. Then, a third person joins the group for discussion, and the group gradually continues to grow until all individuals have joined and shared their ideas. This provides a controlled environment that privileges the input of each participant and builds upon the collective wisdom of the group.
Check out Jess Eddy’s tips for more effective brainstorms.