4 Great Brainstorming Exercises for Introverts

Loved by some, dreaded by many. How do we make brainstorming enjoyable, valuable and fun for everyone involved? Get 4 brainstorming exercises that get everybody’s creative juices flowing.

Friendly and approachable, solves problems by talking them through, open and willing to share. All personality traits favored by modern corporate cultures. And all often associated with extroverts.

Many introverts consider these sessions as everything that is wrong with this world, packed into a 3-hour meeting

But we aren’t all extroverts, and nor should we be. Open office spaces, coffee machine chats, and brainstorming sessions. Navigating these extroverted times as an introvert is anything but easy. In fact, to some it's considered nothing short of social stigma to "admit" being an introvert.

Today we’re tackling the brainstorming beast. Many introverts consider these sessions as everything that is wrong with this world, packed into a 3-hour meeting. Thinking out loud with other people, passing loose ideas and concepts around? No thank you.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Inspired by how we work as a team here at Ideanote and this post by Susan Cain, we have comprised a list of 4 brainstorming designs that introverts can get behind.

1. Give People a Head Start

You’re not guarding this year’s Oscar winners, you’re facilitating a brainstorming, so no need to be super secretive. Circulate the question before your session starts. Send out a brain-warmer for people to chew on and generate ideas for. Then spend the meeting collecting and discussing those ideas, building on top of what ideas the group has come up with. This will help overcome two challenges:

Half-baked to 4/5 baked: A typical trait of many introverts is the reluctance to come up with ideas that they don’t perceive as well-thought out. They set their standards high and wouldn’t want to waste their own or others’ time on ideas that have no real potential.

Creative Solitude: Not everyone enjoys coming up with ideas in plenum. Actually, solitude and being alone with one’s thoughts is a great way to spark creative thinking to many.

2. Yes and…

Create a comfortable and warm atmosphere by banning the word “BUT” and replace it with AND. So no "yes but", but only "yes and". Originating from the improv-theater scene, this is a rule that should be used in ALL brainstorming sessions. So whenever a new idea is presented, if you feel you can make it better, simply start your sentence with “yes and”, to improve it.

By using the "yes and" method you create a positive space where more people feel comfortable sharing their ideas. Rather than an environment where we shoot down anything that moves with our "yes buts".

In early-stage brainstorming sessions, all ideas are welcome and it’s not about critiquing other ideas. It’s about building on them, improving them – later on, you’ll do the sorting and prioritization.

3. Groovy Brainstorming

This practice, we adapted from the IDEO team, and have come to love it as one of our own. Here's how it goes: break up your group into smaller ones of around 3-4 people. This helps encourage lower voice levels and more time to think. Put on some groovy tunes and pass a couple of “how might we” questions around the room. Assign a group to one question each. When the music stops, rotate to the next station and question with your team. This setup ensures that there are never too many voices to battle with, without compromising on the number of ideas shared. Remember to leave time to let people wander around and add more ideas at the end of the session.

4. Go Digital

Who says brainstorming must be done analog? Using a digital tool to collect and collaborate on ideas has shown to be a great way to include introverts in brainstorming. First of all, it gives each member exactly the time they need to ponder over the question and answer when they are ready, no half-baked ideas here. Moreover, people can come up with ideas during their creative solitude and there are no loud extroverts running a one-man show.

No one method is superior to the other, it’s all about finding the mix that suits you and your team. Good luck!

Hungry for more? Check out how to conquer imposter syndrome in innovation, How to structure and maintain a good ideation process or what about 4 outstanding innovations from the crowd?

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