7 Simple Rules of Brainstorming

Making great ideas become an even greater reality.


The more ideas you come up with, the better chance you have to reach a truly brilliant solution. For many, brainstorming is the bread and butter of ideation. It’s a great tool to help teams push past obvious solutions to get to breakthrough ideas. Across the thousands of brainstorms IDEO has run—both with internal teams and with clients—we follow seven important rules.

Set the stage for a successful brainstorming session—get your team together, follow these seven simple rules, and watch as the ideas flow (post them on your wall if it helps).


IDEO U Poster of Brainstorming Rules

Download the poster


IDEO’s Rules of Brainstorming

1. Defer Judgment 

Creative spaces are judgment-free zones—they let ideas flow so people can build from each other's great ideas.


2. Encourage Wild Ideas

Embrace the most out-of-the-box notions. There’s often not a whole lot of difference between outrageous and brilliant.


3. Build on the Ideas of Others

Try to use “and” instead of “but," it encourages positivity and inclusivity and leads to tons of ideas.


4. Stay Focused on the Topic

Try to keep the discussion on target. Divergence is good, but you still need to keep your eyes on the prize.


5. One Conversation at a Time

This can be difficult—especially with lots of creative people in a single room—but always think about the challenge topic and how to stay on track.


6. Be Visual

Use colored markers and Post-its. Stick your ideas on the wall so others can visualize them.


7. Go for Quantity

Crank your ideas out quickly. For any 60-minute session, you should try to generate 100 ideas.



Need more tips and practice?


“Ideation is about shared invention. Attaching a single person to a single idea hinders collaboration and greatness.”
Brendan Boyle, IDEO Partner & Founder of IDEO Play Lab, Instructor of From Ideas to Action


Starting Soon

Business Innovation - IDEO U Certificate
Human-Centered Strategy Certificate