Duration: < 30 min
Difficulty Level: Easy
Group Size: < 20
Level of interaction: High
Multilanguage fit: No
Preparation Time: Short
Purpose: Knowledge Construction
Type of Online Events: Hackaton, Webinar, Workshop

Fostering the flow of innovative ideas

Brainstorming is a well-known method for collecting ideas orally. It encourages participants to think freely and openly without inhibitions, stimulating creativity and spontaneous thought processes. This method can generate inspiration for innovation. The topics handled can examine optimistic scenarios or wanted consequences and not only regard negative problem statements.

Use this method to:

  • Produce ideas and stimulate creativity.
  • Define ideas.
  • Overcome blocks and think critically.
  • Plan approaches or solve problems.

Steps to apply this method:


  1. Define the purpose of the learning activity and the topic or theme for the session. The topic should be specific and concrete and could be about a problem, a project, an outcome, an organization, or an idea.
    • During the brainstorming session, generated ideas need to be recorded. If you, as the facilitator decide to write down the ideas, it is helpful to have a moderator, to ensure that all opinions are properly captured and that the process is well managed.
  2. Based on the purpose of the learning activity: plan the session either for a small group of participants (less than 10 persons) (variation 1) or for more participants distributed into small groups (variation 2). 
  3. Consider applying the Three Stage Brainstorming approach: 
    • Stage 1 “Brain dump”: participants share any ideas on the specific topic.
    • Stage 2 “Divergent thinking”: participants generate ideas related to those already captured, such as risks, implementation, or resources.
    • Stage 3 “Creative ideation”: participants examine ideas in more depth and reformulate them into possible solutions.
  4. Create a set of questions for the topic and define the time limit for the brainstorming session.
  5. Define the tool that you will use, familiarize yourself with its functionalities, and prepare the online space with breakout rooms. 
  6. Consider the use of a collaborative whiteboard or an annotation tool.


Start the learning activity

  1. Brief the participants and explain the learning activity and its purpose.
    • Introduce the topic and explain that the intention of the exercise is to generate as many ideas as possible without thinking about them too much. Later on these will be discussed, analized and evaluated. 
    • Introduce 4 rules: All ideas are welcome, think outside the box, judgments are not accepted, a free flow of ideas is encouraged and nurtured.
    • Show the previously designed space without zooming into the content. 
      • Introduce the tool to facilitate the learning activity. Include: Name of the tool, participants’ requirements.
    • Next, the facilitator presents a topic or problem to the group as a challenge and the time participants will have for the learning activity.
      • Variation 1: 
        • Participants are given 5 minutes to write down their ideas individually.
        • Participants share their ideas orally within their breakout room group (10 minutes).
        • Participants share the results and the facilitator cluster them into logical groups of related ideas.
    • Variation 2:
      • Participants are assigned to groups and distributed into breakout rooms.
      • Groups appoint a group representative to record all generated ideas.
        • Groups are given 15 minutes to brainstorm. During this time participants write down their ideas individually and then share their ideas orally within their groups. 
        • All ideas are recorded in a place visible for everyone in the group.
        • Groups are given 10 minutes to organize and prioritize ideas. The highest-rated ideas are clustered.
        • Group representatives present the prioritized ideas to plenary group.
        • Facilitator clusters ideas of all groups and discusses results with all participants.
  2. Present the topic or problem, the timing for the session, and start the learning activity right away (variation 1) or assign participants to groups, distribute them into breakout rooms (variation 2).
  3. Discuss, analyze, and evaluate ideas.
    • Variation 1: First, organize ideas by clustering them into logical groups of related ideas. Proceed with the discussion.
    • Variation 2: Bring all participants to the main room. Invite the group representatives to share the results of their group work. 
      • Cameras and microphones are enabled only for the facilitator and the representatives of each group.
  4. For both variations: Consider using the Dotmocracy method to evaluate ideas jointly. Display all ideas and instruct participants to place a dot or other indicator underneath the most promising ideas. Select the ideas with the most “votes” for further analysis or action.
  5. Conclude the learning activity by conducting a participatory debriefing of the brainstorming session and announcing the best-evaluated ideas.

A simple way to represent the ideas collected is to use a free online tool to generate a word cloud.

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