Have you brainstormed a lot with your team? If yes, that’s great!
Brainstorming is a creative activity at its roots. It solves hard and complex problems and delivers productive results.
But creativity isn’t a switch you can just turn on and off. It’s a muscle and an ability that needs exercise. Like any muscle, it needs warm-up, to get maximum performance.
Have you noticed that jumping into a “dull” and “cold” brainstorming session can reduce your team’s efficiency? If a team is going to work as a unit, it needs a warm-up to perform at its best. So before you jump into your next meeting to brainstorm ideas, try these exercises to get your team’s creative juices flowing.
What are the benefits of warm-ups before brainstorming?
If you go to play baseball without warming up, what will happen? Well, three things. One, your muscles will ache. Two, your stamina will fail you. And three, you won’t be able to finish the whole game. The same thing happens when you’re about to brainstorm with your team.
Let me guess what you’re thinking. “Coby, isn’t brainstorming a warm-up exercise that kickstarts creative thinking?” Well, yes. But if you jump into the session without prepping, it’ll take you a long time to access your creativity. We call that the “mental zone.”
Like a cup of coffee in the morning, these exercises load and charge your brain batteries. They get you and your team ready for the tasks ahead.
Another thing: brainstorming is more than unique ideas; it’s also about collaboration.
These activities can come in handy for your team when they get to where they trust and feel safe and comfortable enough. Then team members can share their ideas — even if their thoughts are not formed yet.
Exercises like these also loosen up your team, break the ice, and build trust. Their mental attitude will shift toward a more relaxed and creative mood. In other words, brainstorming warm-up exercises help get your brain gears moving. Get your team prepared and ready to hit the ground running with original ideas in your brainstorming sessions!
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success” - Alexander Graham Bell.
TOP 5 BRAINSTORMING WARM-UP EXERCISES
How exactly do you ignite your brain’s activity? (Hint: it’s not by wearing a beanie in your head, LOL)
Try these legit brainstorming exercises to stretch your team’s creative brain muscles, and boost your innovation with problem-solving skills.
1. Alternate Uses Test
A creative exercise that boosts variety and imaginative thinking? Alternate Uses Test is the choice for that.
How it works:
Set the timer for 3-5 minutes.
Choose one object, like a spoon.
Write down as many ideas as you can of different ways you could use that object. For example, a spoon can be used to scrape a mango. Or use it like a drum to create sound or create a fun paint splatter effect for an art project.
Go around the room and have each team member share their favorite ideas.
This is a quirky yet easy exercise that will work for your team. It also works for groups of all sizes. By the end, you and your team will have a wide and varied mix of either practical, unusual, or silly ideas! After a couple of rounds, everyone may be surprised at how imaginative they can be. This exercise can warm up your brain and get your team comfortable with everyone. Before diving into a serious brainstorming session, doing this can help everyone think better.
2. Bad Idea
This activity enhances the breadth of your team’s thinking. After all, brainstorming is about creating ideas without judgment. The more creative and weird, the better!
But getting people to share thoughts that aren’t polished is easier said than done. Insecurities come out of nowhere. With this game, you’ll get them to share their thoughts. They’ll get comfortable while enhancing their thinking capacity. A broader thinking capacity can improve your team's creative juices (and help them brainstorm better).
This exercise helps your team arrive at ideas with an open mind. You can consider even the wildest proposals that can yield benefits and applications.
How to start the exercise:
Divide your team into groups of two or three people.
Each group should give itself the name of a unique yet weird product, like “Bitter Bananas” or “Sleepless Beds” (the worse, the better!)
Those names are their products! Give the groups five to ten minutes to discuss all the potential benefits, uses, and selling points of their chosen group names.
Have each group “sell” the team on their bad ideas.
Each group will be unique. Have fun with it! The Bad Idea exercise is a simple activity that can accelerate out-of-the-box thinking! It helps everyone on your team focus on benefits and possibilities – which is the perfect exercise before your brainstorming session. It is a great activity to get your team’s creative juices flowing.
3. Good Idea
This exercise is like the Bad Ideas exercise, but the opposite. Well, you know where this will go now, right?
This exercise aims to create an open mindset that focuses on possibilities instead of obstructions.
You can also use the Good Idea exercise as part of your main brainstorming activities, especially as it fully illustrates the purpose of brainstorming. Here’s how it works:
Divide yourselves into groups of t three.
Assign one person to be the “expert.”
Have the two remaining people each think of a noun, with the two words being unrelated to each other. You will combine them into a new “product.” For example, one thinks of “mouse” and the other thinks of “headband.” The product would be a “mouse headband” or “headband mouse.”
The expert then acts as the expert on that product and will try to sell the team on all its great features and benefits (for 3-5 minutes).
The person who acts as the expert needs to widen his ideas about the new product. It’s a fun and challenging exercise. But in the long run (slowly but surely), your team will adapt and get better at creating solutions. They’re in the spotlight where they have to think on their feet creatively. It’s an impromptu way of finding solutions to problems.
4. Story-making exercise
Have you played this game during a party ice-breaker? If yes, you can do this exercise with your team before doing your mind-draining brainstorming activity.
For those who do not know it, this exercise is when a group creates a story, one sentence at a time. Your team members can open and widen their imagination as the story goes. But let them know that they have to keep it broad yet straightforward.
Here is how the story-making exercise works:
Prepare cards with genres for your team to pick. Behind them are titles so that your team can start creating the story from it.
Go around to each of your team members. As you pass on each of them, let them fill out the story, one sentence at a time. Give them 30 seconds to a minute to think and write.
Keep going until the story finds a conclusion (or a mind-blowing one) or after you've gone around everyone a few times.
I remember so well in high school when our teacher gave us tasks like this. Regardless of the genre, the stories ended up in either death or a happy-ever-after conclusion (especially with the girls).
Story-making exercises promote active listening. Each person has to pay attention to how the story is unfolding so they can add to it when it’s their turn. By improving their quick thinking and creativity, your team can improvise lots of ideas in the future. These are essential skills for brainstorming. Groups that listen and gather ideas well during a brainstorming session can build more inventive solutions.
5. Left-hand, right-hand writing
Our brains control everything in our bodies. Yet there are two sides to it: the left and the right hemispheres. They control different areas of function. So, to fully grasp and showcase their potential, let’s do this activity.
But let me explain some things first. The left side of our brain primarily controls our logical and practical thought. The right side controls our creativity, artistic imagination, and senses. The weird thing is that the left side of the brain controls the right side of our body, and the right side controls the left side of the body.
Brainstorming works best when both sides of our brain work together. This warm-up exercise will help us tap both sides of our brain function.
How it works:
Let your team members prepare a blank sheet of paper and two pencils (they can be ballpoint pens).
Instruct each of them to write their full name using both hands simultaneously. So, their right hand will write their name in the usual way. Your left hand should do the same.
For the second part of the exercise, they will write their name correctly on the right hand, but using the left hand, make them write it backward, like a mirror image, right to left.
At first, this is difficult. Trust me. I’ve tried it. But stick with it. You can spice up the game by making them draw a picture. Writing or drawing at the same time like this activates both sides of the brain. It helps warm up their focus and attention to detail.
Before you jump into your next meeting to brainstorm ideas, try these exercises to get your team’s creative juices flowing. Not only will they help you come up with better ideas, but they can also be a lot of fun. And who knows? You may even want to start using some of these techniques for problem-solving in your own life. If you’re looking for more ways to increase productivity in your remote team, check out our other blogs here. We have plenty of great tips and advice that can help make your teamwork run like a well-oiled machine.