How to get 50 creative ideas in 5 minutes

One of the beautiful things about brainstorming is that people get to build upon each other’s ideas. Using ideas as stepping stones is a great way to quickly find more (and more creative) ideas. This “classic” way of group brainstorming is fun, engaging and inspiring. It has only one problem. It isn’t very productive.

Ideation happens really fast. Especially when you are using creative thinking techniques, it’s relatively easy to come up with dozens of ideas in just a couple of minutes. What most people forget during a brainstorm, however, is to put all the ideas on paper. Many great ideas, additions and insights are lost simply because participants are jumping from one idea to the next while forgetting to capture all the important intermediate steps.

Of course, you can appoint someone to capture all the suggestions. Yet, unless you have a professional note taker, it’s hard to keep track of all the ideas floating through the air. To prevent misunderstanding or overlooking important details, it’s always better when participants describe their own ideas, in their own words.

Another problem that sneaks around the corner with these traditional brainstorm sessions, is ‘group think‘. Because participants tend to avoid conflict and are generally striving for consensus, alternative ideas (that might upset someone) are not shared. Combine this with the fact that people can get really obsessed with an idea, and you have a recipe for brainstorm-disaster. Sometimes participants get so attached to an idea, that they can’t (or refuse to) think about other options. Although it’s fine to explore an idea, an idea itself should never stop the flow of new ideas. With brainstorming it’s important to come up with as many ideas as possible. The more ideas you generate, the more original they will become and the more options you will have, to choose from. Brainstorming should be about widening your view, not narrowing it.

To solve the issues mentioned above, we have developed a creative technique that can be used in groups. A light exercise that utilises the resourcefulness of individuals, while making use of the wisdom of the crowd. The technique can best be described as a mixture between the brainstorm methods  S.C.A.M.P.E.R. and Brainwriting.

The technique is really simple and can be used to generate many creative ideas in a very short period of time. If you are brainstorming with a group of ten people, you could use this technique to generate fifty creative ideas in less than five minutes.

How does it work?
It can be done in a large group, but we prefer to use smaller groups. Five to six people per group works best. If you have ten participants, divide them into two groups of five. Give each participant a different form with a question in the middle. Ask them to quickly write down an idea that comes to mind, and hand over the form to their neighbour on the right. The ideas on the form may be used as input for new suggestions (additions or variations of the idea), but it is also fine to generate entirely new ideas (alternatives).

The goal is to fill the entire form by adding ideas and passing it around. The entire exercise should not take much longer than five minutes. Leaving you with two groups with each twenty-five ideas, generated by looking at your challenge from all different angles.

Participants can write the idea on the form itself, or they can paste sticky-notes on the form. Both are fine. However, the last option is probably more convenient for evaluation since you will be able to move the ideas separately.


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Free download: We created a template of this technique that you can download and use whenever you want to improve your brainstorm output.

Free brainwriting template

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