5 types of thinkers to keep in mind when organising a brainstorming session

Whenever you’re organising a brainstorming session, you should consider the fact that a group of people usually consists of very different characters. Some participants will instantly and effortlessly share many creative ideas, while others only get started once clear boundaries are set. In this article, I’ll share the various types of thinkers you have to keep in mind. You’ll read about their weaknesses, but also about ways to make them flourish.

5 types of thinkers to keep in mind when organising a brainstorming session

Type 1: The Idea Canon

You must’ve encountered this type before; the Idea Canon. You won’t easily forget this powerful brainstorm participant. Give the Idea Canon a goal, or even a single word to riff off, and there is no stopping him. If there is an Idea Canon in the group, you don’t have to worry about not having enough ideas at the end of the session.

Whether all those ideas are feasible is another story though. The brains of Idea Canons work fast and will make connections that might seem absurd to others. The Idea Canon looks for opportunities and will sometimes lose sight of reality. However, if you focus on the concept behind the wild ideas the Idea Canon generates, you can turn the rough input into promising solutions.

The creative thinking technique ‘Follow the white rabbit‘ fits the Idea Canon’s style perfectly. Working with this technique, the Idea Canons can flaunt their extreme creativity, while at the same time being forced to look for ways to bring those into the realm of realism.

Type 2: The Elaborator

In contrast to the Idea Canon, the Elaborator needs more than just a desired outcome to get started. However, give an Elaborator a single good idea and she will effortlessly come up with 10 different varieties. An Elaborator always sees alternatives and opportunities to improve an idea.

An Elaborator won’t be the first to share an idea, but once on a roll, an abundance of slightly different alternatives to choose from will be proposed. Encourage this type of participant to generate as many ideas as possible, for in a brainstorming session quantity is more important than quality.

A particularly effective technique to utilize the Elaborator’s special talent is Brainwriting; a technique in which participants use each other’s ideas as inspiration.

Type 3: The Houdini

Limitless possibilities don’t work for everyone. Some participants will need a few restraints. They need limitations to fulfil their creative potential. Houdini types will only generate their best ideas if you give them some very clear restrictions.

Houdini types will be paralyzed by too many options. An anything-goes approach won’t make them happy. However, if you tell them all the things that can’t be done, they’ll surprise you with amazing outside the box solutions to reach the desired goal anyway. These creative thinkers flourish in projects that seem impossible, so feel free to introduce some artificial limitations to challenge them.

When organising a brainstorming session, make sure you build in some ‘unnecessary’ limitations. Ask participants how they would solve the problem if there would be no budget. And what would they do if the solution had to be implemented within an hour? The Houdini loves a challenge.

Type 4: The Realist

Whenever an Idea Canon suggests outlandish approaches, the Realist will turn them into feasible plans. Unfortunately, it’s precisely this practical attitude that is the Realist’s biggest weakness. Realists will be hesitant to share all their ideas, as not every idea will be achievable. An idea that can’t directly be implemented is, in the eyes of the Realist, not worth mentioning.

Realists are prone to self-censoring. However, put an Idea Canon in the same group and a dream team can arise. Let the Idea Canon generate the most extravagant ideas, and the realist will shape them into achievable approaches.

To help the naturally reserved Realist loosen up, use a technique like Wishful Thinking. By forcing the Realist to start with something unrealistic, you encourage this type of participant to explore more creative directions.

Type 5: The Invisible Brainstormer

In any brainstorming session, there are people who do most of the talking, but also people who are barely noticeable. These silent participants prefer listening over speaking up. They do have many ideas, however.

There can be many reasons for the shyness of this type. Perhaps the participant is overwhelmed by the Idea Canon, or perhaps he or she considers the own ideas not good enough to share. The Invisible Brainstormer is usually afraid to be criticised. Whatever the reason, something is holding this participant back.

A great way of breaking through this restraint is holding a Bad Idea Brainstorm; ask participants to look for the worst possible idea… If worse is better, then there can be no wrong answer. Anything is safe to say and this allows self-conscious participants to get past their fears.

As the Invisible Brainstormer tends to be intimidated by louder participants, it’s worth including at least one individual exercise. During individual rounds, every participant writes down all his or her ideas in silence, without having to fear being interrupted. Therefore, whenever you’re organising a brainstorming session, include a Braindump at the very start of the session. This way, all ideas get equal ‘air time’.

Afterwards, enable the Invisible Brainstormer to share some additional ideas he or she might not have felt comfortable sharing in the group.

Sharing ideas afterwards

Being able to contribute additional ideas afterwards is pleasant for any type of brainstormer. Think about it, how often have you had a great insight on the way home after a long day of work, in bed just before going to sleep or while standing under the shower the next day?

There are many tricks and techniques to stimulate creativity, but sometimes a great idea needs some time. Giving people a place to share these bonus ideas ensures that no idea will be lost.


Would you like to know more about organising a great brainstorming session?

Putting together a great brainstorming program is not easy. And organising an effective brainstorming session online is even harder. How to keep the group’s energy high when everyone is working remotely? How can you keep every participant engaged and stimulate creativity?

In our online training Effective Online Brainstorming, we’ll teach you and your colleagues how to organise the perfect online brainstorming session. For more information, send an email to hello@hatrabbits.com or call us on 0031 10 3070 534.



Don't miss out

Receive our biweekly email with our latest articles on business creativity.

We respect your privacy.
Recent Posts
  • george

    the best educative materials i have ever read

Leave a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search

Make your team more creative by letting them share embarrassing storiesJootsing - zo bedenk je out-of-the-box ideeën