These fifteen brainstorming prompts will help you and your team solve problems together.
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There are a lot of best practices that we recommend to our customers: start with the end in mind, adopt criteria to drive ideation, use at least seven channels to communicate with your end user, respond to ideas with positive feedback and questions. But there’s another piece of simple advice that we give to all of our customers when they’re preparing an innovation challenge: seed your community with a few ideas before you launch.

Why do we recommend this? Well, innovation is hard and it seems far more daunting when someone goes to look at a problem and all they see is a blank screen and a blinking cursor. Sometimes seeing a few other ideas offers a benchmark or a counterpoint to their own thinking. Plus there’s even research that shows people are better able to recognize a good idea if they’re first asked to be creative.

However, to have a few quality seed ideas to put into a campaign, you’ll need to generate some ideas yourself, which is why we shared fifteen brainstorming prompts to generate ideas. We’ll share five of them here:

Build on one another’s ideas. Start by sharing a topic. Each member writes down their ideas individually – then have them pass it on for the next person to change or improve. The beauty of this exercise is that you might grow out and develop a new concept as a team or discover a promising fragment amidst everyone else workshopping a thought together.

Use time travel. What if you were solving this problem 100 years ago? Or 100 years from now? Looking at a problem from this perspective introduces interesting constraints that get the creative juices flowing.

Take the constraints away. What if money, time, resources, and experience… were not a factor? Sometimes you don’t realize that your creativity is being hampered by an overwrought concern with feasibility.

Watch an inspiring video or TED talk and now think of ideas to solve the problem. Giving the mind the opportunity to encounter a new idea will often allow you to bring something new to the table. So even if the inspiring video or presentation doesn’t come to bear on your immediate problem, it might inspire new thought or discussion.

Disrupt your own thinking processes. Think about what everyone would typically do in your situation. Then do the opposite. What happens? This reverse approach to problem solving helps you invent new reasoning and create new connections between different parts of the problem.

Obviously, all of these prompts should be given a little time and play in order to find some diamonds in the rough, but by the end of the workshop, administrators can usually upload a few gems into their crowdsourcing challenge.

For the full set of brainstorming prompts, download our infographic on the subject here.

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

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Listen to this podcast to find out what roles curiosity and humility play in innovation.