Table of Contents
Table of Contents


Brainstorming is an activity that will help you generate more innovative ideas. It’s one of many methods of ideation—the process of coming up with new ideas—and it’s core to the design thinking process. IDEO has honed this process over 40 years to help teams and organizations come up with new-to-the-world solutions rooted in customer needs. It’s a skill that you can build within your team and organization to help bring new ideas to life.

The Creative Process consists of cycles of divergent and convergent thinking.

  • The Creative Process contains multiple cycles of iteration—with each phase, you move closer to a refined solution.
  • In Divergence—teams go wide to find insights and generate new ideas.
  • In Convergence—teams narrow their focus by refining ideas and synthesizing information.

Why Brainstorm

IDEO Play Lab Founder & Instructor of our From Ideas to Action online course, Brendan Boyle, on how to brainstorm better.

We can’t get to new places by only doing what’s worked in the past. To come up with innovative ideas, it’s important to go beyond your comfort zone. In order to do that, you’ve got to start with an abundance of options—including some wild ideas—that you can build on and test.

Brainstorming is an effective way to:

  • Produce a large number of ideas
  • Generate ideas quickly
  • Expand your portfolio of alternatives
  • Get people unstuck
  • Inject insights from a broader group
  • Build enthusiasm
  • Solve tricky problems
  • Improve team collaboration

Rules for Running a Brainstorming Session

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 by sharing these brainstorming rules with your team.

  1. Defer judgement
  2. Encourage wild ideas
  3. Build on the ideas of others
  4. Stay focused on the topic
  5. One conversation at a time
  6. Be visual
  7. Go for quantity
Download the Rules of Brainstorming poster

See an IDEO brainstorm in action with the IDEO Play Lab, taken from our From Ideas to Action online course.