Team Workshop


Improve Creativity with brainstorming
50-60 minutes
3-18 people
Remote & on-site


Group brainstorming has become a creative idea-generation method in many organizsations since Osborn’s first (1957) book was published, where Osborn suggested, that a single person brainstorming in a group would produce alomst twice as many ideas than brainstorming alone. The problem is, almost in all experimental studies, group brainstorming was found to lead to the generation of fewer ideas as compared to the same number of people brainstorming alone, counting their ideas in the end (Diehl & Stroebe, 1987; Mullen et al., 1991).

The difficulties with group brainstorming are:

  1. Social loafing: individuals reduce their effort when working in a group (Karau & Williams, 1993)
  2. Production blocking: group members have to take turns expressing their ideas, some ideas are forgotten while waiting or individuals decide not to state ideas that are similar (Nijstad et al., 2003)
  3. Evaluation pressure: individuals feel that their ideas are evaluated and judged (Camacho & Paulus, 1995)
  4. Similar categories: groups have the tendencies to converge on similar categories of ideas and scan only a small number of ideas from available cognitive categories (Brown et al., 1998)
The good thing is, there are some things we can do against these mechanisims.

Team workshop instructions


  • Read the background and instructions
  • Material:

    Paper / documents to work on together like „notion“


Check-In (5 minutes)

  • Welcome the team and introduce the workshop

Overview:Brainstorming in the team, trying two different excercises for divergent thinking and trying brainwriting

Goal: Getting to know the pitfalls of brainstorming and ways to improve it

Step 1 (5 minutes)

  • Brainstorm in the group about the topic: The best ways to make first contact with an alien.
  • Collect your ideas together on a paper/ document

The Brainstorming excercise is a little Warm Up.

Step 2 (10 minutes)

  • Explain the four difficulties for brainstorming mentioned above to the team and write them down somewhere, for everybody to see.
  • Try to find examples for the four difficulties, if you can’t find any, here are some examples:
  1. Social loafing: you have the feeling that your contribution to the result is not important, maybe because you think others have better ideas, so you try less to come up with new ideas yourself
  2. Production blocking: you had a good idea but the person that speaks before you says something similar, so you don’t share your idea even thouh you think your version is more helpful
  3. Evaluation pressure: you don’t want to say some of your ideas because you fear that your colleagues might laugh about them, you feel more self-concious and inhibited
  4. Similar categories: you keep brainstorming in a similar direction because that category is something everybody already agreed, is good, so you keep searching for ideas there instead of thinking about something completely new

Step 3 (5 minutes)

  • Explain the importance of breaks to the team.

Making breaks while brainstorming has two benefits: the cognitive one is, that a break can eleminate functional fixedness on a certain category or being stuck. To have this positive effect of a break, participants have to do a unrelated activity during their break. The other benefit is motivational, a break simply remotivates the participants (Coskun, 2005).

Divergent thinking is helpful for brainstorming, divergent thinkers for example offer more divers ideas or opinions (Engelmann & Gettys, 1985; Nemeth & Nemeth-Brown, 2003) and scan a larger number of categories. You can create this effect during you brainstorming session, if you do a short divergent thinking task

Step 4 (15 minutes)

  • Try the two tasks with the team.

Everybody should write (on their own) as many alternative uses as they can come up with for this common object. (4 minutes)

Expamples: brick, pencil, towel etc.

Everybody should generate (on their own) as many words as they can from this set of letters and write them down. (4 minutes)

Examples: A D L F A U R, K S E F S I E E N I T

You can always use these tasks in the middle of a brainstorming session, when you feel stuck or just want some fresh ideas.

Step 5 (7 minutes)

  • Try brainwriting in your group! You have 5 minutes to brainwrite about the topic: Why it would be good to live in the univers of Harry Potter/ Lord oft he Rings/ Star Wars etc. (choose the one, everybody knows).

An alternative to the classic brainstorming is brainwriting.

Every participant gets a sheet of paper and a pencil in a different colour. Everybody writes their first idea on the paper and give it to the person on the left.

Now everybody read the existing idea on their new paper and try to think of another. If you have no new ideas, just read the ones on your paper and give it to the person on your left.

Ending (5 minutes)

  • Talk about your experiences during this workshop.
  • Everybody should name one thing they will take with them out of this workshop/ that they think will be helpful for them.

First Aid ⛑🩹

Didn’t go as expected? Check out the following tips.

  • Your team doesn’t engage in the brainstorming as much as you would like

    Ask the team about different topics they may find more interesting to brainstorm about. You can even chose something you are currently working on.

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