Group Brainstorming 101: Lessons from The Scroll

Guest Blogger Hannah Silvers

Brainstorming seems simple in theory. Any ideas go! Throw them all on the page — don’t worry if they make sense now, we’ll sift through them later! But when it comes time to actually brainstorm, especially in a group, sometimes we can hit stumbling blocks. How do we know what to say, how do we keep on track, etc.

There was quite a bit of group brainstorming involved in the development of the CUPID studio project that eventually became the The Scroll. From the first project pitches to small group feedback to the organization of the final product, we were collaborating on a pool of ideas throughout the entire project. Because our project relied so heavily on group brainstorming, we needed to make sure we had a productive process to work with.

Coming up with a successful process for group brainstorming is hard. You don’t want to restrict the process too much because flexibility fosters creativity. But without some sort of structure, group members can lost track and the brainstorming process can run slower and much less efficiently. We needed a happy medium. We employed the following two techniques to structure our group brainstorming sessions, and hopefully they can be helpful to you, too:

  1. Write things down, and give everyone a pen

What does this picture look like to you? A whiteboard covered in sticky notes? It’s much more than that.

282 Brainstorm Board

Actually writing things down, instead of just talking about ideas, is a great way to keep track of what’s been suggested. Besides, by physically laying out the ideas, it’s easier to group similar ideas together or move the group’s favorite ideas to one side.


Everyone writing is also an easy way to make sure everyone’s included. By providing time (5 minutes) and materials (a stack of sticky notes and a pen) for everyone to write their individual ideas before sharing with the group, everyone was guaranteed some ideas in the collective pool. Plus, writing individually first lets each group member write down some ideas they might not have volunteered if everyone was fighting for talking time in one big group discussion.

But after everyone’s had a chance to throw out ideas, what then?

  1. Allow time for ridiculous ideas

See that row of sticky notes at the top of the whiteboard? Those are the most ridiculous suggestions we could come up with. We didn’t focus on making realistic suggestions, we just wrote down the silliest ideas that came to our heads.

There’s a dual purpose for this practice, shockingly. Of course, it allows group members to get their silliest ideas out of the way and get other equally creative but maybe more realistic ideas flowing.

But writing down ridiculous ideas can also go a long way in creating group atmosphere. A group that laughs together can work together. We talked about some pretty ridiculous ideas that had us all laughing and engaging with one another, even though it was one of our first classes together.

These techniques helped our group brainstorming run smoothly, especially considering this vital part of our project took place when we were all still getting to know one another. I hope they can help your group brainstorming, too!

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