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 7 effective brainstorming methods you can use to quickly brainstorm and generate ideas through drawing, writing and diagramming.

The visual brainstorming techniques we’d be looking at are

  1. Mind Maps
  2. Fishbone Diagrams
  3. Flowcharts
  4. SWOT Analysis
  5. Starbursting
  6. Affinity Diagrams
  7. Concept Maps

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

Click on 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 - brainstorming techniques

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 - Brainstorming techniques

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.

Example of a SWOT Analysis Template

Click on the template to edit in=t online

Get more SWOT analysis examples.

Find Solutions to Issues with Starbursting

Starbursting - Brsinstorming technique

Instead of directly discussing solutions, starbursting gets you and your team to examine the problem first by asking not just the 6 key question, 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.

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 data you’ve collected.

Affinity Diagram Template

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 example

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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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.


  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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