10 templates for brainstorming (plus brainstorming methods)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 April 2022

Brainstorming templates are tools that professionals and creatives use to generate ideas and formulate plans in a pictorially represented way. They allow people to collaborate in the idea creation process and solve problems through a structured yet relaxed process. Knowing about some of the various templates that you can use for brainstorming can help you and your colleagues with ideation at work. In this article, we explore what a template for brainstorming is, why people use them and look at various examples of templates that you can use.

What are templates for brainstorming?

Brainstorming templates are idea generation and problem-solving tools that professionals use to further business initiatives. They allow people to exercise lateral thinking, which is an indirect and creative approach to thinking, to come up with solutions or develop ideas. Some brainstorming templates separate information into different categories, which can help people generate desirable ideas concerning the objectives at hand. Using templates for brainstorming also enables professionals to document their thinking processes, which they can refer to at a later date to recall how they devised a solution or idea.

Related: A guide to the innovation process and how to develop one

Brainstorming templates

Different brainstorming templates are useful in different situations, and knowing about some of them can help you choose one that's right for you. Here are various templates that you can use for brainstorming:

1. The 5 Whys template

This is a simple and easy-to-use brainstorming tool that seeks to get to the heart of problems by continuously asking ‘Why?' until it uncovers something meaningful. First, professionals write down the problem that they are trying to solve through the exercise. They then ask ‘Why?' at least five times to uncover the root cause of a problem. Once professionals uncover a countermeasure, they pursue the line of thought until they solve the problem completely and prevent it from recurring.

Related: 15 tips for improving your creativity in the workplace

2. Blue Ocean 4 actions framework

Professionals in the product development space favour this framework because it helps to improve user experiences while reducing negative user experiences. To use this template, create four sections titled:

  • Eliminate: Place features that are not currently useful in this section to mark them for elimination.

  • Reduce: In this section, consider which features you can strip down to something more simple while retaining the value your product offers to users.

  • Raise: Here, place any features that you wish to raise above the industry standard to improve user experiences in areas where they currently have negative ones.

  • Create: Add to this section any features that don't currently exist that you can create and capitalise on.

By following this ideation framework, professionals can significantly increase the quality of their products.

3. Affinity diagram template

You can use this diagram to effectively sort information into relevant categories. This helps teams visualise projects and see how the various parts come together to form a larger picture. You can begin by recording ideas on pieces of paper, looking for ideas that appear related to each other and then sorting the ideas into groups until you have none remaining. To get the categories, divide a sheet of paper horizontally into four sections labelled: top-level, second-level, third level and brainstorming area.

Teams can communicate and collaborate while sorting information into the right categories. Affinity, in this context, refers to a similarity of characteristics that suggests a relationship between two things. So professionals aim to uncover logical, or even abstract, connections between items until they have grouped them all and completed the exercise.

Related: What makes a good team and how to build one

4. Disney creative strategy template

This is an ideation tool that professionals use when working on creative projects and includes the following stages of thinking:

  • The dreamer: This section encourages participants to think unrestrictedly, allowing any and every idea to flow until the section fills up.

  • The realist: Progressing from the last section, this section looks at an achievable dream and collates steps that you can take to make the dream a reality.

  • The critic: Finally, in this section, you can look at the action plan that you devised in the previous section and criticise the plan to uncover and address potential obstacles.

5. Concept map maker

This is a simple brainstorming template that is easy to use. Through this method of brainstorming, professionals can organise ideas, words or images in a hierarchical structure so that they can easily visualise them. They then draw connections between items to uncover how things relate to each other and discover the cause of something. These maps also reveal how information contrasts.

Related: What is waterfall project management and why is it useful?

6. The Fishbone template

These brainstorming templates help professionals discover causal relationships between occurrences. They track the causes of problems in an attempt to locate and eliminate root causes. Understanding the causes of issues is the only way to devise appropriate solutions, and the Fishbone template aids this process. You can create a Fishbone diagram by drawing a horizontal line across a piece of paper, with the major problem you are addressing placed at the end of the line to the right. From the main horizontal line, work backwards identifying causes and the causes for those causes until you have a single root cause.

7. KWL chart template

Professionals use this brainstorming template immediately after a separate brainstorming session. This is because the KWL chart enables users to narrow in on the information they learned and reflect on the session as a whole. To create this chart, simply divide a sheet of paper into three parts: what you know, what you want to know and what you learned through the brainstorming session. The first section accounts for things you already knew before the session, the second section accounts for questions you may have following the session and the third section is for things you learned.

8. How, now, wow matrix template

This brainstorming template helps with ideation and professionals use it to come up with high-quality ideas. To create one, divide a document into four sections with the lines intersecting centrally. You only require three of the quadrants, so you can disregard the fourth or reserve it for note-taking. Label one of the sections ‘how', another ‘now' and the remaining section ‘wow'. The goal is to come up with as many ‘wow' ideas as possible. You can place radical, yet achievable ideas in the how section, tried-and-tested ideas in the now section and good, achievable ideas in the wow section.

9. Random word brainstorming template

This is another simplistic template that helps with ideation. The goal is to generate random words that trigger ideas in the participant's mind, with the ultimate aim of coming up with innovative solutions. This technique is effective because it forces people to think outside of the box. By using random words that trigger random ideas, participants are likely to think about problems in ways they haven't previously, which can be useful for problem-solving. To create such a template, write a random word in the centre and then consider how it may connect to a problem, writing down your thoughts.

10. Lotus diagram template

The lotus diagram template helps professionals use the lotus blossom brainstorming technique. Professionals understand this technique through the metaphor of a lotus flower because lotus leaves bloom outwards from their centre, much like ideas when using the technique. To use this diagram, write a main idea or problem in the centre and then expand from the centre by writing thematically related ideas and solutions around it.

Different methods of brainstorming

Understanding the main methods of brainstorming may help you choose a template that is most appropriate for your needs. Some of them are:

  • Reverse brainstorming: This involves reversing what you are trying to achieve as a means of uncovering potential problems. For example, if you want to sell a product, you might reverse this and think of ways to stop consumers from buying your product, so the ideas you come up with then become problems to avoid.

  • Brainwriting: This method involves six people receiving a prompt and writing down as many ideas as possible within five minutes. They then passed the ideas around and another team member writes an additional three ideas, to ultimately produce a large list of ideas.

  • Team brainstorming: Using this method, managers separate teams into smaller groups and give each of them a brainstorming template. Each group then attempts to come up with the most and the best ideas within a specified timeframe.

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