Modern brainstorming with rapid ideation techniques will save you time and headaches.

Pain points are real or perceived irritants–often a critical factor in gaining or losing customer loyalty and trust. This means you want to prioritize and solve these problems fast. But skipping an ideation session in favor of pursuing the first solution offered can lead to disastrous results and delay the release of a solution to customers when problems are discovered in late-stage testing.

But brainstorming is difficult, takes hours or days, and amplifies unrealistic ideas— right?

Actually, modern brainstorming sessions do not take up much time and will save you from redoing work by validating solutions with multiple stakeholders. A session that is focussed on a single pain point can take as little as 30 minutes when key stakeholders are involved—designers, developers, marketing associates, product managers, project managers-anyone with insights that are valuable to solving the problem at hand. Furthermore, rapid ideation techniques can keep your brainstorming session moving forward and bring fresh ideas to the surface fast.

What You’ll Need

You will need pens, sharpies, sticky notes, a whiteboard or large surface, and most important: buy-in from key team members.

  • Follow These General Brainstorming Rules:
  • Defer Judgment
  • No idea is a bad idea
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Quantity over quality

Session Steps:

Step 1: Choose a Pain Point to Solve

Your pain points should be rated and mapped by importance so you know which issues to solve first. Gather any research or previous mapping activities and give participants adequate time to review critical information. Personas, empathy maps, journey maps, and service blueprints are all important to have on hand.

Step 2: Five Minute Ideation

Successful brainstorming requires some changes to the traditional, ‘loudest idea wins’ approach. Do not share any solutions with the group until everyone has had at least five minutes to write their own ideas down on sticky notes. Remember, during this initial ideation process participants should follow the standard brainstorming rules. Getting individual ideas down before sharing will help prevent groupthink — a psychological phenomenon in which participants hear other’s ideas and then confirm their own ideas to be similar. Groupthink can kill ideation before it begins so get your team on the same page and prevent dominant personalities from derailing your efforts.

If you are having a hard time with ideation, now would be a good time to introduce one or more of the rapid ideation techniques outlined later in this article. Try them out one-by-one and see what works best for your team.

Step 3: Share Ideas With The Group

Give each participant a minute to share their ideas and place each sticky note on a whiteboard or large piece of paper. Continue to defer critical feedback, however, constructive, open-ended questions are ok at this point. It is valuable to voice some concern to give the team a chance to improve the solution in the next step.

Step 4: Repeat Step 2–3 As Necessary

Now that you have shared ideas in rough form, participants may have been inspired by each other. Take another 3–5 minutes to write down any new ideas or improve ideas that have already been shared. Stealing and modifying ideas is welcome in this step. Again share these ideas with the group, placing sticky notes on the whiteboard.

Step 4: Rank Your Ideas to Create Consensus

When the group has run out of steam ideating you’ll know it is time to move on. It is time to rank your ideas. Each participant should mark three sticky notes with a line or dot using a colored sharpie to denote their top three favorite ideas. Tally the results and isolate the top three ideas, then do a simple raise of hand vote to determine the top solution. Sometimes this solution will be clear before any voting begins, but it is important to have a democratic process built into the brainstorming session for those times you need it.

Step 5: Build An Action Plan

Some participants can be dismissed from the session at this point. Decision makers should stay behind to summarize the results and begin to formalize an action plan.

Rapid Ideation Techniques

If your brainstorming session has fallen victim to groupthink, topic fixation, or if your team runs out of steam too early, try infusing your session with one or more of these ideation techniques aimed at jumpstarting creativity.

Mind Mapping

This is a classic brainstorming technique for individuals. Start by drawing a primary idea in the middle of your page, then surround your idea with related thoughts, drawing lines from the center out to each component. The key here is to move as fast as possible. Try to generate 30 components in just three minutes, then share your mind map with the person sitting next to you and/or move seamlessly back into step 3.

Right Braining

Sometimes you just need to warm up the right side of your brain by drawing the pain point or solution. Describe your pain point at the top of a sheet of paper, then start doodling anything that comes to mind. Again, keep the doodles loose and aim for quantity over quality.

Provocative Actions

The idea here is to look at things differently by physically changing your environment. You can pause your brainstorming session and relocate participants to another space to release mental block or even break up conflicts. Alternatively, you can physically alter the room you are in. Have the group to sit on the ground, under tables, or ideate while doing yoga. These provocative actions can release some of the pressure put on individuals tasked with solving critical pain points and positive spirits lead to more productive teams.

Pessimist vs. Optimist

This is a conversational technique aimed at generating quick solutions to pain points through simple dialog. Partner up with one other participant and choose a role (pessimist or optimist). The optimist will start with a statement like: “How about this idea.” Then the pessimist will respond with a problem statement they see with the given idea. Again, the optimist should provide a solution — and so on. Build on each other’s statements and try to keep the dialog going as long as possible.

Object Randomness

Start with a broad pain point, then choose an object or action directly associated with it. Next, in about five minutes, list as many words as you can which describe the object. Again, move quickly here because quantity is better than quality. Review the words and circle any words that closely relate to the original idea. Use the circled words to help form a solution statement.

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