Quick Brainstorming Activities for Busy Managers
50 Exercises to Spark Your Team's Creativity and Get Results Fast
Author: Brian Cole Miller
Pub Date: January 2012
Print Edition: $18.95
Print ISBN: 9780814417928
Page Count: 208
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814417935
Buy the book:
This book is for the busy manager who uses brainstorming as a tool
to gather input and ideas from his or her staff. Here’s what you can
Each activity takes less than 15 minutes. Brainstorming is a
quick process. Part of the success comes from the tight time limits you
will impose on the session. You can get great results in minimal time.
There’s no need to linger on a topic until you’ve squeezed every last
idea out of the group. Use these activities and the best ideas will flow
Each activity can be done with only a few basic materials. Most
of these are things that your organization already has on hand: flip
charts, markers, index cards, pens, and paper. You will need a stopwatch,
but you can probably use the one on your cell phone. Other
than that, the rest of the activities’ supply lists include things that are
not difficult to obtain: large sticky pads, balloons, magazines, and so
Each activity has a specific, focused purpose. Some are better for
large groups, some for small groups. Some draw out quieter participants.
Some are competitive. Some are faster paced than others. You
can pick and choose which activities you use based on the needs of
Each activity can be run by you, the busy manager. They are
simple to understand and easy to plan and prepare for. Some of them
can even be done successfully just moments after you read them for
the first time. You take this book to your meeting and use a brainstorming
activity right then and there!
The outline of each activity is easy to follow. Each one is presented
in the same easy-to-read bulleted format:
This is . . . explains very briefly what the activity is.
What it does . . . tells the benefits of the activity and what it will
help you accomplish, but it also includes a word of caution about
a potential downside of using the activity.
What you need . . . tells you everything you’ll need for the activity.
Usually, it’s nothing more than a marker and some flip chart
paper, or a stack of index cards!
Here’s how . . . tells you, step-by-step, how to conduct the activity.
For example . . . gives examples of things to use and/or shows how
the activity may play out, so you get a good sense of what to
expect. Often, there is an illustration at the end of the activity to
show you how it will look on the chart or in the room when you
Tips for success . . . includes pointers and cautions that will help
you run the activity more effectively.
Try these variations . . . offers variations on the activity that may
slow it down, speed it up, expand or contract the scope, add a level
of competition, or otherwise alter it for a slightly different brainstorming
Relax, you won’t find any of these kinds of activities here:
No “touchy-feely” activities in which participants have to touch
each other a lot, or share personal thoughts or feelings with one
No outdoor activities that require large areas, nice weather, and
physically fit participants.
No special handouts to prepare, copy, or distribute.
No lengthy activities during which more time is spent explaining
the rules or warming the group up. Each activity takes about 15
minutes or less!
Before we get to the activities, though, there are three chapters
that will help you be successful in any brainstorming session.
The first chapter explains what brainstorming is. It gives a brief
history of brainstorming and some of the most common reasons for
using it. You’ll learn the four basic rules for brainstorming and why
each is so important: focus on quantity not quality; don’t allow criticism;
encourage wild, outlandish ideas; combine ideas for more
ideas. Then we’ll look at the 10 steps of conducting a brainstorming
session—from the planning and preparation, through implementation,
and on to action planning for the future. Lastly, we’ll take a
look at the most common problems that arise in brainstorming sessions.
We will consider ways to prevent them from happening in the
first place, but we will also discuss what to do if they happen in spite
of your best efforts.
In Chapter 2, we learn how to ask a great starting question to
kick off the group’s brainstorming. This first question focuses the
group’s energy and leads them to their own great responses. So it’s
got to be good, and it will be if you use their language, make it personal
for them, keep it within scope, and use imagery to evoke
responses. Once they start contributing, there are three ways to keep
the energy high and the ideas flowing: using prompts, playback,
and helping if necessary. We explore each of these techniques in
detail in Chapter 2.
Chapter 3 looks at how to record your participants’ responses.
There is great power in the pen—you can make or break your brainstorming
session just by what you record, or how you record your
participants’ input. You’ll learn how to follow the four rules of
recording: keep it moving, keep it theirs, keep it legible, and keep it
Each of the first three chapters ends with a brief summary, and
then a checklist that you can use to gauge how well you are applying
the principles contained therein.
With these basics, you’ll be ready for the brainstorming activities.
There are four kinds of activities in this book, presented in four
Chapter 4 includes a dozen activities for brainstorming, including
the original, traditional method developed by Alex Osborn, the
father of brainstorming. Each of the other activities has a slightly
different focus or objective, so use them as your needs vary.
Sometimes, the creativity of a group needs to be primed. For that,
you can use the activities in Chapter 5 in tandem with the activities
Chapter 5 has almost 20 activities for encouraging more creativity
from your participants during brainstorming. You may combine
one of these exercises with an activity from Chapter 4. The
activity from Chapter 4 gives the framework—the structure—to the
brainstorming session, while the exercise from Chapter 5 will promote
creativity from the participants as they use that structure.
Chapter 6 has several methods for categorizing or grouping the
list of input your group will generate using the activities in Chapters
4 and 5. Often the list is so long that the participants need to group
the input before they can even try to use the data meaningfully.
These activities will help you do just that. This is an interim step for
the group—after the list is generated, and before the data is analyzed
and put to use.
Finally, Chapter 7 presents several processes for prioritizing the
list generated earlier. This may mean ranking the ideas, or deciding
on the best one, or simply sorting them into a few layers of importance.
Because of the nature of group decision making, plan on
these activities taking longer. The more important the issue, and the
more participants involved, the longer it will take for everyone to
feel heard, validated, and committed to a final resolution.
Brainstorming can be fun and productive! Enjoy using these
activities to bring out the best from your team.
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