Structured brainstorming

What is structured brainstorming?

Whether it was for a school project, a new marketing campaign, or your soon-to-be remodeled kitchen, chances are you’ve had more than a few brainstorming sessions in your life. Who hasn’t? Brainstorming is widely used, and for good reason—it’s a simple and effective method for generating new ideas. 

Think back to some of the recent brainstorming you’ve done: It was likely informal, a little spur of the moment, maybe just you jotting down some notes and ideas. Sound familiar? This is what’s called spontaneous brainstorming. 

While spontaneous brainstorming is useful in small-scale, informal situations, imagine using it in a business meeting. Things could go well, but they could easily go wrong. You might end up with dozens of unrealistic ideas to sift through, or maybe two or three people dominated the conversation and you missed out on hearing the quiet guy in IT’s golden idea. You get the idea. It’s situations like these where structured brainstorming comes in handy. 

Just like spontaneous brainstorming, structured brainstorming is a method for generating ideas. Structured brainstorming, however, has formal elements that make it more focused, goal-oriented, and, in many instances, effective. 

What is structured brainstorming?

Structured brainstorming is similar to spontaneous brainstorming, just with a little more, well, structure. And while there isn’t one “right” way to introduce structure into the brainstorming process, the first step of structured brainstorming is always the same: Plan, plan, plan! 

So is structured brainstorming simply a fancy name for planned brainstorming? The short answer: Sort of. But let’s get into the long answer. 

Spontaneous brainstorming, as the name suggests, occurs spur of the moment. Participants generate and share lots of ideas on the spot—your opportunities to introduce any sort of structure are limited. 

When you plan brainstorming ahead of time, you can structure the brainstorming session any way you’d like. Want participants to read over a set of pain points and then bring their two best solutions to the meeting? No problem—send out a document a few days before the meeting and have your coworkers add their responses. Are there a series of problems you want to address and solve? Make a Lucidspark board that breaks down each problem in turn and provides space to record possible solutions. 

structured brainstorming
Brainwriting example (Click on image to modify online)

One feature of structured brainstorming is focus: Structure helps participants keep the end goal in mind throughout the brainstorming process. As you lead a structured brainstorming session, you might use SWOT or PEST analysis to help participants hone in on specific strategy goals. Even something as simple as stating your desired outcome can add an additional level of structure and focus to a brainstorming session.

structured brainstorming
SWOT Analysis example (Click on image to modify online)

Advantages of structured brainstorming

One of the biggest advantages of structured brainstorming is that it allows participants to come prepared. With spontaneous brainstorming, there is often a quantity over quality mentality—people throw out ideas left and right, regardless of feasibility. When participants come prepared, they bring their best ideas to the table. 

Structured brainstorming also allows each participant’s voice to be heard. Too often meetings are dominated by only a handful of talkative individuals. In structured brainstorming sessions, you can collect one or two ideas from each participant and record them. Then, to give everyone a chance to weigh in even more, allow everyone to vote on their favorites.  

illustration of people working together

Things to avoid with structured brainstorming

Check out the pros and cons of group brainstorming to find the right strategy for your team.

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About Lucidspark

Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard that helps you and your team collaborate to bring the best ideas to light. It comes packed with all of the sticky notes, freehand drawing tools, and infinite canvas space you need to capture that next big idea. And it’s built for collaboration. Think of it like a sandbox where your team can bounce ideas around and innovate together in real time.

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