Brainstorming has been around for decades now and is still used across an array of business settings to create, solve and innovate. A popular and creative technique, a good brainstorming session can help you come up with solutions and ideas in an otherwise stagnant system.

However, brainstorming is only as good as those contributing to it. There are some valuable rules, brainstorming tools and methods which can be used to ensure you get the most out of your brainstorming session.

Follow the Brainstorming Rules

Brainstorming emerged as an idea in 1942, when a marketing executive named Alex Osborn realised that creative ideas could be borne out of spontaneity. He created a set of brainstorming techniques and rules to ensure maximum input and results from all participants.

  1. Don’t criticise ideas.
    All ideas are valuable in brainstorming, and criticism leads to limited contribution and thinking. When negativity is removed, people are more likely to share fun and creative concepts.
  2. Welcome wild ideas.
    Regardless of how far-fetched or eccentric, all ideas are welcome in brainstorming. As Osborn said, “It’s easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.” Some notions may not be as good as others, but the point of a good brainstorming session is to just throw it out there and review the entire list later.
  3. Quantity over quality
    Not every idea is going to be a good one, but even a bad idea can be built upon. The more options are available, the more inspired a solution or innovation may be, so encourage everyone to spew forth whatever comes to mind.
  4. Build, combine and expand on ideas.
    Ideas are for inspiration, and not necessarily for implementation. By evaluating each solution, you can combine ideas together and work towards a creative and effective solution.

Use Colour for Creativity

Research from the University of British Columbia shows the importance of colour for brain performance and receptivity. In the 2009 study, researchers discovered that red is linked with memory retrieval and detail-oriented tasks, whereas blue prompts increased creative output.

Using coloured textas, coloured ballpoint pens or pencils during brainstorming exercises can encourage creative thinking beyond the standard blues and blacks of the traditional writing world. When people are given permission to be creative, results follow. Something as simple as the use of colour can lead to inspired ideas.

A Creative Environment

Much like the introduction of coloured writing instruments, an environment which lends itself to creativity is more likely to produce results. Use sticky flip charts to adhere ideas to the wall where they can be clearly seen, or encourage bright ideas with colourful cardboard or paper pads. Other options include bright sticky notes which can be affixed to a wall for everyone to view.

To really stretch everyone’s brains, take the brainstorming session out of the office. Try an outdoor garden setting, or a walking discussion. If a change is as good as a holiday, it’s certainly good enough to turn on the right-sided, creative brain.

Keep the End Goal in Mind

Brainstorming can come up with radical, profound, and sometimes ludicrous ideas. While the purpose of brainstorming is to create out-of-the-box solutions, it’s helpful to keep the end goal in mind. There’s little point following a line of thought that deviates too far from the main issue, and the aim is to create, combine, and cull ideas with the intention of moving towards a set goal.


A good brainstorming session will leave your team energised and excited. At best, an innovative and visionary solution may be found. At worst, everyone can have a good laugh, and remember, a happy team is a productive team. By maintaining an open mind and providing tools for creativity, you may find that regular brainstorming sessions transforms your team and your business.

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