How to Run Successful Brainstorming Workshops

Updated on: 21 September 2023 | 5 min read
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A brainstorming workshop is a structured and collaborative way to come up with ideas, solve problems, and innovate. Whether you’re a business leader seeking innovative solutions, an educator looking to spark students' creativity, or simply someone eager to explore new horizons, running an effective brainstorming workshop can be a game-changer.

But what exactly is a brainstorming workshop, and how can you organize one that not only encourages free-thinking but also yields actionable results? Let’s find out.

What is a Brainstorming Workshop?

A brainstorming workshop is a structured and focused event where participants come together to work together on generating ideas on a specific topic, issue, or challenge. The main purpose of a brainstorming workshop is to tap into the collective creativity and expertise of the participants to come up with innovative ideas. These workshops are commonly used in various fields, including business, design, product development, education, for innovation and problem-solving.

Brainstorming meeting vs brainstorming workshop

A brainstorming workshop differs from a normal brainstorming meeting in terms of format, structure, and depth of engagement. While a brainstorming meeting is often a brief session within a larger gathering, typically with less structure and time assigned for idea generation, a brainstorming workshop is a standalone, more structured event designed for in-depth exploration and creative thinking.

How to Run a Brainstorming Workshop

  1. Define workshop goals: Clearly outline the workshop’s objectives, specifying the problem or challenge to address.

  2. Select participants: Invite a mix of participants with relevant expertise and perspectives.

  3. Make an agenda: Create a detailed agenda that outlines the schedule, activities, and goals for each segment of the workshop.

  4. Choose the venue and tools: Select a suitable physical or virtual venue and provide necessary tools and resources.

  5. Have a facilitator: Find a good facilitator to keep the workshop on track and focused.

  6. Set ground rules: Establish clear brainstorming rules for respectful and open communication.

  7. Idea generation: Use brainstorming techniques to generate a large volume of ideas without criticism.

  8. Idea evaluation and prioritization: Have a structured process to evaluate and prioritize ideas based on criteria like feasibility and impact.

  9. Action planning: Develop action plans for implementing the top ideas, defining responsibilities and timelines. Summarize and discuss next steps.

A structured template for a brainstorming workshop can help make sure that your sessions are organized and productive. Here’s a simplified template you can use as a starting point.

Workshop Template for Brainstorming Workshop
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Use this workshop template to run a more structured and productive session

Effective Tips to Running Brainstorming Workshops

You can use these tips to improve your brainstorming workshop’s creativity, engagement, and overall effectiveness.

  • Have a diverse facilitation team: Assign a co-facilitator or subject matter expert to help the primary facilitator. This allows for different perspectives and expertise to guide the workshop effectively.

  • Use idea generation techniques: Try different structured ideation techniques beyond standard brainstorming, such as mind mapping, SWOT analysis, or the Six Thinking Hats method, to generate multiple ideas.

Six Thinking Hats for Brainstorming Workshop
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Use this six thinking hats template to run a more structured brainstoming
  • Rotate facilitators: If the workshop is lengthy, consider rotating the facilitator role during different phases. This helps to maintain participants' engagement and provide fresh perspectives.

  • Use breakout groups: Split participants into smaller breakout groups to work on specific aspects of the problem or to generate ideas independently. Afterward, bring these groups together to share and analyze what they brainstormed.

Breakout Group Template for Brainstorming Workshop
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Use this breakout group template to record and organize ideas
  • Try cross-pollination: Encourage participants from different teams or departments to collaborate, fostering cross-functional thinking and innovation.

  • Use silent brainstorming: Silent brainstorming is a technique where participants write down their ideas independently before sharing. This minimizes groupthink and helps generate a wide range of ideas.

  • Try role play and simulation: Include role-playing or simulation exercises relevant to the workshop’s theme to encourage creativity and empathy in problem-solving.

  • Use physical props: Introduce physical props, visual aids, or prototypes related to the topic to stimulate ideas and inspire innovative solutions.

  • Form expert panels: Invite experts or guest speakers to share insights or provide different perspectives during the workshop, inspiring participants with fresh viewpoints.

  • Have storytelling sessions: Hold storytelling sessions where participants share personal or relevant stories related to the topic. This can evoke emotions and lead to more creative thinking.

  • Use gaming elements: Include gamification elements, such as team challenges or problem-solving games, to make the workshop more engaging and competitive.

  • Have feedback loops: Build in periodic feedback loops where participants can reflect on the workshop’s progress and suggest adjustments to the process.

  • Use visual documentation: Use visual recording techniques (e.g. graphic facilitation or sketchnoting) to visually capture the workshop’s key points and ideas, creating a dynamic record.

  • End with a creative exercise: Wrap up the workshop with a creative exercise or activity that helps participants to unwind and reflect on the day’s accomplishments, reinforcing the creative mindset.

Brainstorming workshops give you a more structured way to come up with ideas and plans. By using steps and effective brainstorming workshop tips, you can unlock the full potential of your team’s creativity, paving the way for breakthrough solutions and innovative ideas.

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Amanda Athuraliya Communications Specialist

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

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