13 Brainstorming Techniques to Visually Generate Ideas for Teams

There are times even the typical brainstorming techniques with your team would hit a roadblock. Coming up with fresh new ideas isn’t always so easy. 

That’s when you should try something new. Maybe go about brainstorming ideas in a whole new way.

We’ve got 13 effective brainstorming techniques you can use to quickly brainstorm and generate ideas through drawing, writing, and diagramming.

Visual Brainstorming Techniques

  1. Mind Maps
  2. Fishbone Diagrams
  3. Flowcharts
  4. SWOT Analysis
  5. Starbursting
  6. Affinity Diagrams
  7. Concept Maps
  8. Mood Boards
  9. SCAMPER
  10. Cluster Diagrams
  11. Lotus Blossom Technique
  12. Brainwriting
  13. Six Thinking Hats

Enhance Brainstorming with Mind Maps

Mind maps are a tool used to visualize and organize information. Capturing your free flow of ideas using a mind map during brainstorming will help you quickly make sense of the relationships between the information you come up with. They are also a great way to break down an idea and analyze it.

How to do it;   

  1. As you brainstorm around the topic, add branches to connect the sub-ideas to the center
  2. You can add more details to your mind map as you add more branches, and they can be images, symbols, or links to other sources

Need to know how to use a mind map for visual problem-solving?

Example of a Mind Map Template
Mind Map Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Get more mind map templates.

Reverse Brainstorming with Fishbone Diagrams

In reverse brainstorming, instead of finding solutions to a problem, you wonder how to cause it or how to achieve the opposite result of what you expect.

Fishbone diagrams, which is typically used to find the causes of an effect (hence named cause and effect diagram), can be used to facilitate a reverse brainstorming session.

How to do it;

  1. Put down the problem at the head of the fish
  2. Instead of asking how to solve it, ask your team how to cause it or how to make it worse
  3. List the reverse solutions the team comes up with (do not reject any idea shared by the team at this point)
  4. Now flip the reverse solutions
  5. On each of the fishbones, write down the real fixes for the problem you came up with by flipping the reverse solutions
  6. Use the fishbone diagram to analyze the situation and come up with a plan

Want to learn more about fishbone diagrams? Here’s a useful guide on fishbone diagrams explaining everything from how to draw one to free templates you can quickly edit.

Fishbone Diagram
Fishbone Diagram (Click on the template to edit it online)

Get more fishbone diagram templates.

Gap Filling and Developing Processes with Flowcharts

Gap filling is basically about finding where point A (i.e. current situation of your business) is and figuring out the steps you need to take to get to point B (i.e. business goals you want to achieve).

You can use a method like flowcharts that maps process steps, to easily carry out a gap filling brainstorming exercise. Following is a free flowchart template you can use to start with.

How to do it;

  1. Identify your goals (or the desirable state where you’d like your business to be in)
  2. Figure out where you are currently at and what you are capable of doing
  3. Get your team to come up with the steps you need to take from now on to achieve the goals
  4. Use a flowchart (like the one below) to align the steps and map the complete process

Learn more about flowcharts and how to draw one with this flowchart tutorial.

Flowchart Template
Flowchart Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Get more flowchart templates.

Situation Analysis with SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is a summary tool that lets you analyze the internal (Strengths and Weaknesses) and external (Opportunities and Threats) factors of your business. If you are creating a new business plan or simply planning ahead, you can use a SWOT analysis to identify where you stand as a business.

How to do it;

Not entirely sure how to incorporate a SWOT in your brainstorming session? Here’s how to use a SWOT analysis effectively.

Plus, if you are doing a competitor analysis before making your move, you can also do a SWOT analysis for each of them. It’ll make it easy for your team to decide what steps should be taken and how to avoid the barriers ahead.

SWOT Analysis Visual Brainstorming Techniques
SWOT Analysis (Click on the template to edit it online)

Get more SWOT analysis examples.

Find Solutions to Issues with Starbursting

Instead of directly discussing solutions, starbursting gets you and your team to examine the problem first by asking not just the 6 key questions, but also several other questions as necessary.

How to do it;

  1. In the middle of the six-pointed star, put down the idea/ problem/ product/ service etc. you are brainstorming around
  2. Write down who, what, where, when, why, how at each point of the star
  3. Brainstorm questions that start with each of the six words assigned to the points of the star (make sure to have at least 3 questions for each point)
  4. Discuss answers to each question and jot them down briefly next to the questions

At the end of the session, your team will not only have figured out the solutions to the issue but will also have a clear vision of the next set of steps that you need to take.

Starbursting
Starbursting (Click on the template to edit it online)

Organize Information with Affinity Diagrams

Brainstorming around a topic generates a flood of information. At times it can be difficult to review or make sense of any trends the data may indicate. Affinity diagrams allow you to neatly arrange and group ideas so that it would be easy to read and analyze.

How to do it;

  1. Record ideas/ information generated during the brainstorming session (you don’t yet need to worry about the order of information)
  2. Get your team to sort the ideas/data into groups based on similarities etc.
  3. Give a name to each group as you put down the ideas you picked out under them

Here’s an affinity diagram template that you can use to organize the information neatly. Click it to add the data you’ve collected.

Affinity Diagram Visual Brainstorming Techniques
Affinity Diagram (Click on the template to edit it online)

Analyze Relationships Between Concepts with Concept Maps

Concept maps are a learning and teaching technique that is used to identify the relationships between ideas or concepts. They help properly structure thoughts that are thrown around in a brainstorming session in a way that is easier to understand.

How to do it;

  1. Identify the topic you are going to brainstorm around
  2. Write down all the ideas/ facts/ themes etc. that come to your mind when you think of the topic
  3. Draw the map and make connections between them

We’ve got a handy concept map tutorial to help you learn the technique in-depth.

And if you are already familiar with concept mapping, use this free concept map tool to run your next brainstorming session.

Concept Map
Concept Map (Click on the template to edit it online)

Visualize Your Ideas and Thoughts with Mood Boards

A mood board is a collection of images and texts arranged on a board (much like a collage) to convey a theme or style for a project. It can be used to graphically conceptualize details such as color palettes, typography, textures, image styles, and more. 

How to do it; 

Learn how to create a simple mood board with these 8 easy steps.

Mood Board Template
Mood Board Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Spark Ideas for New Products or Services with SCAMPER 

The SCAMPER method is an easy and straightforward way to generate new ideas. It lets you innovate on an existing product, service, or process by looking at it from 7 different angles. 

  • Substitute –  what can you substitute (i.e. material used, people involved, process steps, etc.) in your product/ service to make an improvement? 
  • Combine –  What ideas, resources, steps in the process, can you combine to generate a more efficient output?
  • Adapt – What process, component, or feature should you adjust to generate a better result?
  • Modify – What elements can you modify (add more or less of it) to achieve the result you desire? 
  • Put to another use –  What other purposes can the product/ service be used for? Who else can use it?
  • Eliminate – What element in your product or service can you remove or reduce? 
  • Reverse/ Rearrange – What process, component, or feature can you rearrange or reverse?  

How to do it; 

Learn how to use the SCAMPER brainstorming technique with these resources. 

The Best Ideation Techniques for Remote Teams

SCAMPER Examples and Templates

SCAMPER Technique
SCAMPER Technique (Click on the template to edit it online)

Generate New Ideas and Explore New Topics with Cluster Diagrams 

Cluster diagrams are used to sketch out ideas and identify logical connections between them. It helps systemize the generation of ideas around a topic and group them based on how closely they are related. 

How to do it;

Our resource on cluster diagrams explains how to create one in 8 easy steps.

Cluster Diagram
Cluster Diagram (Click on the template to edit it online)

Explore Effective Solutions to a Problem with the Lotus Blossom technique 

The lotus diagram helps break down broad topics into smaller components for easy analysis. It starts with a central idea and is subsequently expanded in an iterative manner by means of solution areas or related themes.

How to do it; 

Learn more about how to use a lotus diagram with our resource. 

Lotus Blossom Technique
Lotus Blossom Technique (Click on the template to edit it online)

Encourage Creative Problem-Solving with Brainwriting 

Brainwriting is a brainstorming technique used by teams to generate new ideas. Unlike in a traditional brainstorming exercise where everyone speaks out their ideas, during a brainwriting exercise, the participants write down their ideas. It’s a great approach to allow shy or introverted team members who are generally reluctant to speak, engage in the sessions productively.

How to do it; 

Refer to our guide on brainwriting to learn about the steps to follow to conduct a successful brainwriting session with your team.

Brainwriting Worksheet
Brainwriting Worksheet (Click on the template to edit it online)

Investigate Issues from a Variety of Perspectives with Six Thinking Hats 

Six thinking hats is an ideation technique used to provide direction to decision-making and group thinking. It explores six thinking styles represented by six different colors. It allows the team to look at an idea from different perspectives and gain an in-depth understanding of the idea’s potential. 

  • White – data, facts, and figures
  • Red – feelings, intuitions, emotions, and hunches  
  • Black – judgment, legality, morality
  • Yellow – optimism, benefits 
  • Green – new ideas, opportunities
  • Blue –  conclusions, action plans, next steps

How to do it;

Familiarize yourself with how to use the six thinking hats technique with our resource here.

Six Thinking Hats Template Brainstorming Techniques
Six Thinking Hats Template (Click on the template to edit it online)
What Other Visual Brainstorming Techniques Do You Use?

We’ve listed 7 visual brainstorming techniques that you can use to boost generating ideas with your team.

If you have any other brainstorming technique that is your favorite way of coming up with new ideas, share them with us.

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Author

Amanda Athuraliya

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

Comments

  1. Bisma

    My personal favourite is a flowchart. Probably because I’m most comfortable with using it, that’s the first one that comes to my mind when I need to brainstorm.

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