Quick Brainstorming Activities for Busy Managers

50 Exercises to Spark Your Team's Creativity and Get Results Fast

 Quick Brainstorming Activities for Busy Managers

Author: Brian Cole Miller
Pub Date: January 2012
Print Edition: $18.95
Print ISBN: 9780814417928
Page Count: 208
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814417935

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This book is for the busy manager who uses brainstorming as a tool

to gather input and ideas from his or her staff. Here’s what you can


Each activity takes less than 15 minutes. Brainstorming is a

quick process. Part of the success comes from the tight time limits you

will impose on the session. You can get great results in minimal time.

There’s no need to linger on a topic until you’ve squeezed every last

idea out of the group. Use these activities and the best ideas will flow


Each activity can be done with only a few basic materials. Most

of these are things that your organization already has on hand: flip

charts, markers, index cards, pens, and paper. You will need a stopwatch,

but you can probably use the one on your cell phone. Other

than that, the rest of the activities’ supply lists include things that are

not difficult to obtain: large sticky pads, balloons, magazines, and so


Each activity has a specific, focused purpose. Some are better for

large groups, some for small groups. Some draw out quieter participants.

Some are competitive. Some are faster paced than others. You

can pick and choose which activities you use based on the needs of

your group.

Each activity can be run by you, the busy manager. They are

simple to understand and easy to plan and prepare for. Some of them

can even be done successfully just moments after you read them for

the first time. You take this book to your meeting and use a brainstorming

activity right then and there!

The outline of each activity is easy to follow. Each one is presented

in the same easy-to-read bulleted format:

This is . . . explains very briefly what the activity is.

What it does . . . tells the benefits of the activity and what it will

help you accomplish, but it also includes a word of caution about

a potential downside of using the activity.

What you need . . . tells you everything you’ll need for the activity.

Usually, it’s nothing more than a marker and some flip chart

paper, or a stack of index cards!

Here’s how . . . tells you, step-by-step, how to conduct the activity.

For example . . . gives examples of things to use and/or shows how

the activity may play out, so you get a good sense of what to

expect. Often, there is an illustration at the end of the activity to

show you how it will look on the chart or in the room when you

are finished.

Tips for success . . . includes pointers and cautions that will help

you run the activity more effectively.

Try these variations . . . offers variations on the activity that may

slow it down, speed it up, expand or contract the scope, add a level

of competition, or otherwise alter it for a slightly different brainstorming


Relax, you won’t find any of these kinds of activities here:

No “touchy-feely” activities in which participants have to touch

each other a lot, or share personal thoughts or feelings with one


No outdoor activities that require large areas, nice weather, and

physically fit participants.

No special handouts to prepare, copy, or distribute.

No lengthy activities during which more time is spent explaining

the rules or warming the group up. Each activity takes about 15

minutes or less!

Before we get to the activities, though, there are three chapters

that will help you be successful in any brainstorming session.

The first chapter explains what brainstorming is. It gives a brief

history of brainstorming and some of the most common reasons for

using it. You’ll learn the four basic rules for brainstorming and why

each is so important: focus on quantity not quality; don’t allow criticism;

encourage wild, outlandish ideas; combine ideas for more

ideas. Then we’ll look at the 10 steps of conducting a brainstorming

session—from the planning and preparation, through implementation,

and on to action planning for the future. Lastly, we’ll take a

look at the most common problems that arise in brainstorming sessions.

We will consider ways to prevent them from happening in the

first place, but we will also discuss what to do if they happen in spite

of your best efforts.

In Chapter 2, we learn how to ask a great starting question to

kick off the group’s brainstorming. This first question focuses the

group’s energy and leads them to their own great responses. So it’s

got to be good, and it will be if you use their language, make it personal

for them, keep it within scope, and use imagery to evoke

responses. Once they start contributing, there are three ways to keep

the energy high and the ideas flowing: using prompts, playback,

and helping if necessary. We explore each of these techniques in

detail in Chapter 2.

Chapter 3 looks at how to record your participants’ responses.

There is great power in the pen—you can make or break your brainstorming

session just by what you record, or how you record your

participants’ input. You’ll learn how to follow the four rules of

recording: keep it moving, keep it theirs, keep it legible, and keep it


Each of the first three chapters ends with a brief summary, and

then a checklist that you can use to gauge how well you are applying

the principles contained therein.

With these basics, you’ll be ready for the brainstorming activities.

There are four kinds of activities in this book, presented in four

different chapters.

Chapter 4 includes a dozen activities for brainstorming, including

the original, traditional method developed by Alex Osborn, the

father of brainstorming. Each of the other activities has a slightly

different focus or objective, so use them as your needs vary.

Sometimes, the creativity of a group needs to be primed. For that,

you can use the activities in Chapter 5 in tandem with the activities


Chapter 5 has almost 20 activities for encouraging more creativity

from your participants during brainstorming. You may combine

one of these exercises with an activity from Chapter 4. The

activity from Chapter 4 gives the framework—the structure—to the

brainstorming session, while the exercise from Chapter 5 will promote

creativity from the participants as they use that structure.

Chapter 6 has several methods for categorizing or grouping the

list of input your group will generate using the activities in Chapters

4 and 5. Often the list is so long that the participants need to group

the input before they can even try to use the data meaningfully.

These activities will help you do just that. This is an interim step for

the group—after the list is generated, and before the data is analyzed

and put to use.

Finally, Chapter 7 presents several processes for prioritizing the

list generated earlier. This may mean ranking the ideas, or deciding

on the best one, or simply sorting them into a few layers of importance.

Because of the nature of group decision making, plan on

these activities taking longer. The more important the issue, and the

more participants involved, the longer it will take for everyone to

feel heard, validated, and committed to a final resolution.

Brainstorming can be fun and productive! Enjoy using these

activities to bring out the best from your team.

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