Creative thinking and innovation don’t come naturally to everyone, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good at them. Sometimes, teams need practice and routine to improve their creativity skills. This article will highlight some popular innovation exercises you can conduct with your team to get your creative juices flowing. These will be a combination of workplace exercises and ice-breakers. Let’s get started.

Mind Maps

A mind map is a branching structure that creates linear relationships between concepts so you can easily track the causation and more minor relationships between items. Organizing ideas like this is a great way to make connections that build off the main point and break a concept down into multiple elements. Mind maps are a very popular brainstorming and organizational tool, and they can be beneficial for innovation as well.

Mind maps can easily be created through a digital or traditional whiteboard, and using one collaboratively can be a good first step to innovation or team building.

For example, let’s say you want to start your brainstorming session with some collaborative thinking. You can choose a topic or problem that you’re experiencing, set it up in the middle, and let people begin drawing connections and associations between elements. In the end, everyone should be able to analyze the diagram and gain a deeper understanding of the context surrounding that topic.

Structured Collaboration

One of the perks of using an online whiteboard for brainstorming is that you can quickly launch a number of different exercises. These can be general and focused on team building or specific and focused on your project. Regardless of your goals, or the roles of each team member, everyone can participate in these activities. The inclusive nature of online whiteboards makes them a valuable tool for people to conduct innovation exercises.

Using an online whiteboard for innovation is creative and helpful because they give everyone a chance to interact not only with their notes but with a board that includes contributions from the rest of the team. This collaborative nature helps people broaden their minds and interact with alternative perspectives. This is one of the most important things to emphasize when conducting an innovation exercise and why structured collaboration is so effective.


Brainwriting is a perfect example of why structured collaboration works so well. This exercise asks people to present an initial idea about a previously determined topic. After the ideas are confirmed, everyone will go in order and add comments, extensions, or additions to that idea. In the end, everyone’s vision will have gained inspiration and feedback from the team’s perspective, and you can discuss the various outcomes. This is a great way to gauge people’s perspectives on certain situations and create well-informed solutions.

Solution Laddering

Solution laddering is a basic exercise that provides structure to a very elementary process. You begin by selecting a challenging problem your team is facing. Going around, you then simply ask two questions. Why does this problem occur? How does this problem manifest?

You will continue asking “why” and “how” until you’ve reached a root issue. This is a great exercise to help people improve their scope of thought rather than thinking about what comes immediately before or after a problem and hoping a solution lies there. Looking past what’s in front of you is critical for effective innovation, and solution laddering is a great way to practice this.

Engage In External Creative Thinking

Sometimes your brain needs to warm up before you jump into innovating and creative thinking. There are a couple of creative thinking exercises you can regularly conduct with your team as an icebreaker or a conversation starter that help enforce creative thinking as an everyday activity. Doing this makes people more prepared when it comes around professionally.

You can create several beneficial scenarios to improve people’s creative thinking potential, including drawing exercises, fictitious problem-solving, or puzzle games. All of these can be fun for people to complete and help prep the brain for more intense, professional, creative thinking scenarios.

Market Adjacencies

Market Adjacencies is an exercise that you can conduct to help people improve their scope of thought and build their understanding of alternative perspectives. This exercise begins with each person thinking of a particular product or market, and everyone else has to ideate some unique market adjacencies.

If you don’t know, market adjacencies are new markets or products related to an existing offering but provide a valuable extension to that company. Using this as the premise for a brainstorming session lets people expand their thinking and ideate some unique options. Your team can do this formally if you’re looking to innovate new product developments, or it can be informal and fun if you want to mess around and get your creative juices flowing.


Whether you’re looking to improve your team’s efficiency or just want to integrate creative thinking into your daily routine, these exercises will certainly be helpful for you and your team.

About the Author

Paul Van Zandt is the founder of Fresco, a startup enabling real-time collaboration for people everywhere. Fresco allows you to collaborate with your team on an incredibly simple interface customize your workspace, and save all of your changes online in digital permanence. If you liked this article, make sure you check out Fresco to see how you can begin utilizing a futuristic brainstorming method.

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