If you've ever been a part of an unproductive brainstorming session, you know just how much time this process can sap and how little return it may actually generate. 

All too often, brainstorming sessions involve a handful of individuals locked in a room for an hour or two throwing half-baked thoughts on the table. There are the participants who say very little--introverts who are perhaps uncomfortable laying their ideas bare for the criticism of their peers. Then there are extroverts who lead the contributions, sometimes at the expense of quieter participants.

In other words, brainstorming comes with a complex social dynamic that can limit the output of those involved. Because of that, it's all too easy to spend hours in a room with a number of people and come out with a Post-it note with one or two passable ideas on it.

That doesn't scale.

But there are other methods that make ideation more efficient, scalable, and enjoyable for participants.

1. 108 ideas in 30 minutes with 6-3-5 Brainwriting

6-3-5 Brainwriting is a method of ideas generation devised by professor Bernd Rohrbach and published in German sales industry magazine Absatzwirtschaft (volume 12, 1969).

Traditionally, 6-3-5 Brainwriting works like this:

·      A project leader creates a "problem statement," or a brief that outlines the goals of the session and key information participants need to know.

·      There are 6 participants who each receive a worksheet. This worksheet contains the problem statement and then simply 3 columns with 6 rows of blank boxes.

·      Round one involves all participants working in silence, writing down 3 ideas to meet the brief on the first row of the worksheet. This round is 5 minutes long.

·      At the end of that round, each person passes their sheet to the left, so everyone now has a sheet with 3 prewritten ideas on it. In round two, they create 3 more ideas. These could be ideas they already have or ideas inspired by those on the sheet.

·      This is repeated for 6 rounds.

If each of your participants has completed the sheet, that is 108 ideas in just 30 minutes.

You can also carry this method out digitally using this online tool.

2. The Worst Ideas method

The Worst Ideas method was devised by Bryan W. Mattimore, author of Idea Stormers.

This tactic aims to overcome some of the problems of brainstorming by flipping the session to ask participants to think up the worst possible ideas against a brief. This eradicates people's self-consciousness about presenting their ideas and opens up discussion a little more. It's easier to come up with a terrible idea than a good one! From there, the discussion turns to what the opposite of those bad ideas might be or what might have to be done to those bad ideas to make them good.

This adds structure to brainstorming and makes the session more open.

3. The Note and Vote method

The Note and Vote method is the tactic of choice for the Google Ventures team. This relies more on individual ideation than on group ideation.

Each person in the session is given 10 minutes to write down as many ideas as possible. The participant is then given a further two minutes to pick out a couple of favorites from the list.

From here, everyone reads out his or her best ideas and they are written on a whiteboard. Participants then vote for their favorite on the board.

Experimenting with tactics

Ideas are hot currency in business, whether they're for product features, content campaigns, or brand names. So continuing to experiment with ideation tactics on the people in your company is absolutely essential.