How to brainstorm for business ideas

Need new business ideas? Hosting a brainstorming session with your team can help produce creative ideas, but can also be a waste of time if not done properly. From practical timing suggestions to visualisation exercises, here are nine of our best tips for brainstorming.

Explain the brief

Make sure everyone involved in the session has received an outline beforehand so that they understand what will be discussed and what is expected of them. You could even ask everyone to come to the session prepared with one or two ideas in advance to get the ball rolling.

Manage poor ideas

To encourage team members to produce as many ideas as they can, it’s important to foster an environment where bad ideas are okay. However, it’s also important to be able to separate the good ones from the bad and not spend too much time on the latter. Sometimes it’s useful for the creative process to come up with a few bad ideas, and then brainstorm ways to make them better.


Choose a time of day that will get the most from people. People can become lethargic after lunch but haven’t quite settled in, first thing in the morning. Late morning can suit the creative process; right after everyone’s had their coffee but haven’t become jaded with the day yet.

Mind mapping

This is the classic brainstorming exercise, where a topic is put in the centre of a page and you try and branch-off as many sub-ideas as possible. Each subtopic can then be branched off again, and so on until the bolt of inspiration hits.

Semantic intuition

This exercise follows on from the word association of mind mapping but asks participants to combine random keywords to come up with a name for a new idea; before it is clear what the idea itself is yet. Word games such as this can bear fruit for the brainstorming process.

Visual prompts

Images, colours and so on have a way of stimulating creativity in a way that staring at a blank page does not. Consider the décor and lighting of the meeting room you’ve selected; a dark cupboard is going to be less inspiring for your team than a bright boardroom with a lovely view. Consider distributing pictures relating to the topic and ask your team to come up with scenarios based on what they see.

Be someone else

Where your brainstorming has hit a brick wall, it can be useful to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and consider how they would attack the subject. It can be a colleague, role model or whoever; just picture someone you admire and try and think like they think. Read their book, admire their work; try and align your perspective with theirs and you could unlock real ideas.

Be somewhere else

You and your team are drawing a blank. But what if this meeting was taking place in a different space or time? Would you be a little riskier, more optimistic? Would you come up with better ideas if you were sitting on a beach and not in a stuffy office? Visualise yourself somewhere else and it might make things clearer for you.

Don’t go on too long

Try and keep the session short, around 20-30 minutes maximum. When a meeting begins to drag people will disengage and creativity will fall off a cliff. Putting strict time constraints on the session will add a sense of urgency to proceedings and hopefully get the most from people.

READ MORE: How one Irish firm raised millions. 

Image from Shutterstock.