5 Steps to Game Changing Brainstorms

  • Insight + Innovation
  • Free Range

Focus: Insights + Discovery

Have you ever been in a brainstorm that felt more like a ‘brainwreck’? Several people gathered, collided, and left without anything of value.  At Free Range, we realized that harnessing group genius is more than amassing creative minds and hoping for the best.  Instead, we researched, developed and honed some best practices that have transformed the way we find great ideas.

These principles have helped us:

  • Get the most out of our internal brainstorming sessions
  • Generate unconventional ideas
  • Super-charge the workshops we offer


  • Choose a moderator: Make sure there is an assigned moderator to guide the brainstorm.  To create a mood of playful exploration, it’s important that participants be free to digress on tangents.  It is also important to leave the meeting with relevant ideas.  A moderator can guide the brainstorm back to the main topic if the conversation strays.
  • Gather diverse minds: One of the greatest pitfalls of brainstorms is that people tend to focus on knowledge the group shares rather than what each person uniquely brings to the table. It is crucial that a group formed for a brainstorm be diverse in life experiences, cultural backgrounds, age, level of introversion, gender identity, religion, and even differing priorities within a project. If you keep coming up with the same solutions to problems, try switching up the team.


  • Clarify the problem: One tactic that can open up new ideas and possibilities is to redefine the problem at hand.  A game called Starbursting can help generate questions that reveal new perspectives and opportunities. Creativity blossoms given the right constraints.  Make sure everyone is aligned on what is possible.
  • Align: Set the mood early. The objective of the first brainstorm session is to generate a bucket of ideas that can be developed and whittled down later. Everyone should feel free to present wild, unformed ideas, without the fear of being immediately shot down.
  • Energize: Utilize the energizing power of music, comedy, a change of scenery, or icebreaker games (like these from Mind Tools). Often, people need a little encouragement to get out of their comfort zones.


  • Play games: Never underestimate the creative power of fun.  Sites like Gamestorming have generated and tested games for a host of creative problems. It’s best to use more than one game as each has a specialty. Some of our favorite games include:
  • Allow time to feel: There is an incredible amount of data that our brains synthesize into what we ultimately sense as feelings of intuition.  Too often, these initial reactions are discarded or ignored and replaced with thoughts and arguments. Give people enough time to reflect on their emotional reactions to new ideas before engaging intellectually.


  • Pool ideas: One of the advantages of collaboration is that people can build on the ideas of others. Some ideas, on their own, might be unfeasible, but can inspire greater ideas from the group. Use a game like SCAMPER to help participants develop each other’s ideas.
  • Quiet storm: Some people are encouraged by social stimulation, while others are paralyzed. Match group time with enough time for people to develop ideas on their own.  Some of the best ideas come when we are relaxed and have time to reflect.


  • Selection Games: There are several games we’ve found very helpful for picking ideas to develop further.
    • The Red Team: Give a group permission to speak frankly and tear ideas apart by forbidding them from saying anything nice.  Instead, people on this ‘red team’ must voice their gut negative reactions to ideas.  This can help save time by eliminating barriers to honest feedback.
    • Dot selection and quadrants: Best illustrated in this video, anonymous dot voting and graphing ideas on quadrant maps can streamline the selection process.
  • Inspiration: The ideas generated in brainstorms can be exciting to some, but boring to others.  Be sure that the person accountable for executing the idea is excited about the concept and will bring creative energy to the project.


With the right team, right problem, right games, and enough time and inspiration to develop the ideas, brainstorms can be efficient and invaluable.

Download our brainstorming cheat sheet below to boost your next brainstorm. What are your go-to brainstorming games? Tweet us at @freerangestudio.

5 Steps to Game Changing Brainstorms (257 downloads)