Great and Effective Brainstorming Ideas for Your Workshop

4 Great and Effective Brainstorming Ideas for Your Workshop​

Drive Innovation With a Human-Centered Approach to Problem Solving​

​In today’s fast-paced world, solving problems in a creative way and coming up with great ideas is a must.

Whether you’re a seasoned workshop pro or just starting out, we’ve got your back with some game-changing strategies that will not only supercharge your brainstorming sessions but also make them incredibly productive.

Whether you want to tackle complex challenges, crank up your team’s creativity, or simply get some frameworks for a quick solo brainstorming session, those techniques will work great.


These 4 tried and true approaches to brainstorming are the ones that I like to come back to for projects again and again. And I see them working on other projects as well.

The presented creative brainstorming techniques are all about thinking from the perspective of your user or customer (the theory behind that is called human-centered design or user-centered design) and they cut the problem ahead of you into digestable pieces.


Let’s get straight into those great customer-focused brainstorming techniques!

4 Top Techniques for your Brainstorming Session



User Problems


User Journey


Technology (or material) Advantages & Capabilities


Ideal Solution


How to structure a brainstorming session


How does my team come up with new ideas?

1 | User Problems

What are user problems?

User problems, simply put, are the roadblocks and frustrations people face when they’re doing something; in the context of design and development it’s usually using a product or service but it could be a lot broader as well.

You know those moments when you’re clicking around a website and can’t find what you’re looking for? Or when you’re installing a new device and just don’t know how to make it do what you want?

Those are user problems. They’re the headaches, annoyances, and challenges that real people encounter.


Why do we care about user problems?

Here’s the important part: These problems are like gold for designers and developers.

Once we know what’s bugging users, we can fix it! It’s all about making things easier, more enjoyable, and more efficient for the customer.

In summary: When we understand our user’s problems, we know what they truly need so we can make exactly that.

Brainstorming method find user problems

Prerequisites to work with user problems

To start working with user problems, we need to know who our users are.

You may think that that’s a no-brainer reading this. But let me tell you, in practice, it’s much more wishy-washy. You may have an idea of who your user is – in general – but haven’t really put much thought into the details of what the user truly needs and what their challenges are. Or you have a target audience you’re advertising to but have no idea if that target audience is the typical user, in practice.

If you’re not clear who your user is, start creating one or more personas and come back to this part later.


Questions to ask about user problems:

  • What are the pain points that our users have?
    • Around the use of our products
    • In general
    • Why are they frustrating
  • What is the positive and negative feedback that we get from users of our products?
  • When do our users experience problems with our products?
user problem brainstorming example

Next step

Once you know which are the key points to improve for your user, you should focus on your user’s journey with the product, application, or service in the next phase of your brainstorming process.

2 | User Journey

What is the user journey?

The user journey is someone’s experience when they interact with a product, service, or system.

It’s what they do before, during, and after using your product.

A user journey is literally like a roadmap that documents each step, thought, and interaction.

That might be an activity wearing with your product in hand, pressing a button, making a purchase, completing a task, achieving a goal, or making a decision.

Think of it as a series of connected dots, where each dot represents an interaction with your product or another step on the way.


Why do we care about the user journey?

Understanding the user journey is vital because it helps us see the big picture, at the same time recognize really specific pain points, and discover opportunities for improvement.

By putting ourselves in the user’s shoes and tracing their journey, we can create experiences that are not just functional but delightful, ensuring that every step along the way is a positive and memorable one.

brainstorming activities user journey

Prerequisites to create a user’s journey

To create a great user journey, you will need to know who your user is and how they use your product, in detail.

In case you don’t have a clear picture yet, shadow them using your product if you can, or make detailed interviews (always preferred to go visit them instead of bringing them into a neutral environment).


Questions to ask about the user’s journey:

  • What are the steps a user goes through when using our product?
  • What does the user before, during, and after use do?
  • What are the interactions the user has during use?
    • With other people, with the environment, with parts of the product/experience, and with other “things”?
  • What goes through the user’s mind (what are they thinking during each of the user journey’s steps)?
  • Which decisions does the person have to make?
unser jounrey map example

Next step

Once you have mapped out the user’s journey, you are in the perfect position to ideate around your new product, for example creating the ideal solution, or using other prompts to come up with ideas.

If you need starting help to generate ideas, design thinking cards are always great!

If you have not already done one, it’s the best time to organize a group brainstorming session now.

design thinking cards compared XS

3 | Technology (or material) Advantages & Capabilities

What are the advantages and capabilities of a technology?

Sometimes, we have no idea what type of product to create but we have developed or are given a technology or material.

That might be the case if you’ve developed a new technology yourself or if you’re a designer working with engineers in the early phase of their start-up.

It’s a completely different starting point compared to companies that already have a product portfolio and existing customer base.

You have a wide-open field and you have to start orienting yourself, in order to decide which direction to go.

That can be challenging!

innovate around a new technology

Why do we care about the advantages and capabilities of a technology?

We care about understanding the advantages and capabilities of a technology because it’s the compass that guides us in the world of innovation and development.

When we thoroughly comprehend the strengths and weaknesses of a technology, we can make informed decisions, allocate resources effectively, and decide on a way that maximizes its benefits for users and stakeholders alike.

It’s not just about what the technology can do; it’s about using that knowledge to drive meaningful and purposeful innovation.

It allows us to see different possibilities and envision how we can harness this tool to solve problems, streamline processes, or create entirely new experiences.

Analyzing your technology in a detailed manner will help you get a grasp of what advantages it can bring to a potential user. You will start to know which direction developing towards.

If you want to see a great example of a startup that had a material technology first and created a successful product around it, read this post:

startup vessi waterproof sneakers - link image -XS

Prerequisites to focus on technology

Of course, focusing on a technology makes sense if you have developed one yourself or if you are given one by the owner. It’s a really cool process to dissect what is there and come up with a way to make a useful product from it.

It will only limit you to select the technology first if you are not a technology- or material-based company!


Questions to ask about technology:

  • What does this technology do?
  • What are the advantages of this technology?
  • How is this technology typically used?
    • What is it used for?
    • What is it adding to the user?
  • Which products are typically made from this or a similar technology?
  • In which sector is it applied?
  • Which materials can work with this technology?
  • How could we use this technology in our sector / for our product?
  • What would this technology add to products?
analyze an idea with creative brainstorming techniques

Next step

Once you have a better idea of what type of product you could make with your technology or material, you should ideate around the ideal solution. That’s the best way to develop ideas – and come up with diverse ideas that don’t fit the standard mold of what already exists.

4 | Ideal Solution

What is an ideal solution?

This is the most creative one of all four brainstorming exercises!

In the world of human-centered design, an ideal solution is like that magical concept or design that makes users say, “Wow, this is exactly what I needed!”

Think big here!

Creating the ideal solution is so much fun. You’re only focusing on the user’s best-case experience, on a high level.

You can create the ultimate dream scenario around your product or service.

Ideating the ideal solution is not just about solving problems; it’s about solving them in the best possible way, making users’ lives easier, enjoyable, and productive. Think of it as the ultimate moment when everything clicks.


In this exercise, you’re leaving any challenges aside. How you’re solving something on a practical level is not what we care about.


Dreaming of the ideal solution will tell you what you need to focus on for development. Then, in a next step, you can care about how to make them work in practice (most probably my adapting your ideal dream and merge it what’s possible today or in the near future).


Why do we care about an imagined ideal solution?

When we collect ideas, we naturally cancel out anything that we know won’t work.

That’s of course smart, especially when we have to deliver a high-quality end product under time constraints. But it also kills great ideas that could lead us to groundbreaking innovative ideas.

By temporarily setting practicality aside, we create space for our ideas to flourish, and that’s where the magic begins. We’re creating an absolute best-case scenario that we can learn a lot from.

Later on, we’ll roll up our sleeves and figure out how to make these amazing ideas real for our users. The end outcome might not be at all what we have envisioned in our dream scenario but that doesn’t matter at all:

Those initial ideas around the ideal solution taught us valuable lessons about what our future users might really need or want, and what their experience looks like, in an ideal world.

There’s really no better way to come up with new, great ideas!

innovate around an ideal solution

Prerequisites to work with ideal solution ideation

To ideate around an ideal solution, you should at minimum know the broad direction of your new product. This could either be a new version of an existing product, or a completely new, never-done-before product or service.

The more you know about your future users, the better.

If you need to clarify those things first, start with brainstorming around personas and user problems.


Questions to ask about ideal solution imagination:

  • How would the ideal product be, look like, and work?
    • What would using it look like?
    • How would it help the user/customer?
  • If you could wave a magic wand, what/how …
  • If there were no limitations on money, technology, etc., how would product XYZ be?
  • How might we…?
idea how to brainstorm the ideal product

Next step

Now that we have visions and ideas, it’s all about narrowing them down to the ones to furhter develop, research and build upon.

The next phases will be deeper research and prototpying, depending on the project.


How to structure a brainstorming session

A good structure is the one most important thing in a good brainstorming session.

It’s so easy to circle the conversation around one tiny detail or to create ideas not far beyond the obvious, well-known options.

Thinking outside the box, however, needs more effort. That can be reached easily by a great structure that forces the group to bring ideas to paper fast and not worry about what couldn’t work.


So here’s how to structure your brainstorming sessions:

1 – First off, know what you want to achieve – define your workshop objectives.

2 – Gather a diverse group of people; different perspectives are gold.

3 – Kick things off with an icebreaker to spark creative energy and to get creative juices flowing.

4 – Then, introduce the challenge you’re tackling and give context. Explain the brainstorming method that the entire group should use (for large group brainstorming sessions with sub-groups, this is key!).

5 – Create a safe space where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas – brainstorming rules help to communicate the basis for a safe space in group brainstorm.

6 – Use fun techniques like sticky notes, mind mapping, or just a good old group chat with a note-taker to spark ideas.

7 – People should bring in all their own ideas but also build on other’s ideas. There are no bad ideas! Make sure everyone participates and shares at the very least one idea in each round of the brainstorming session.

Avoid long discussions and over-thinking. Instead, make it clear that unrealistic and silly ideas are valuable. Trying to write as many ideas down as possible is a good ground rule for team members who are not familiar with human-centered brainstorming methods.

Keep an eye on the clock to stay on track. It will always feel like you’re too short in time and that’s ok.

8 – After the brainstorming frenzy, it’s time to sift through the gems. Discuss and prioritize ideas for future sessions and further project work. Document all generated ideas and decisions.

For further project work, narrow it down to a few ideas that you further build on.

9 – End by setting clear action steps, assigning tasks, and deciding on a timeline.

For example, creating a business model, working on prototypes of the top-rated ideas, or conducting user research.


Voila! You’ve just structured a brainstorming workshop that’s bound to generate innovative solutions and foster teamwork.


For a more detailed guide on how to plan out your brainstorming workshop, go to this article about brainstorming workshops:

brainstorming board - link image -XS

What is Human-Centered Design?

Human-centered design, HCD in short, is a creative problem-solving approach that places the needs, preferences, and experiences of people (=end-users) at the center of the design process.

It’s like having a conversation with your users, listening closely to what they need, want, and love. We start by doing some detective work, digging deep to understand how people tick and what challenges they face.

Then, armed with insights, we get creative and brainstorm solutions.

But we don’t stop there; we build prototypes and test them with real users, learning and refining along the way.

The goal is to create solutions that are not only functional but also feel like a perfect fit for the people using them.

Empathy is your secret sauce, so to speak. It’s used for all types of projects, from designing intuitive apps, over classic product design, to shaping friendly office spaces.


With this process, you are so much more likely to generate high-quality ideas and creative solutions than with traditional brainstorming and development approaches, like writing down a list of requirements.


Human-centered design frameworks - link image -XS

How does my team come up with new ideas?

The great thing about brainstorming with an above-described brainstorming technique or other human-centered design approaches is that it sets the ideal ground for generating ideas that are out of the box.

Group members get the right structure to activate creative thinking and let their ideas flow. Even if they think of themselves as not creative.

The group setting and the ask for many ideas – instead of good ideas – increases the number of possible solutions, breaks the fear of having only unoriginal ideas, and sparks creative answers.

Yes, the first few ideas might be the ones you expect. But if team members go further and fully trust the process, they will come up with a lot more other ideas that might turn out to be creative, maybe even ground-breaking innovative ones.


While you can’t let team members “be creative” on command, especially not if you’re pressuring them, you can set a framework that is known to foster creativity, for project work and each brainstorming session.

Leading by example goes such a long way!


Tip: If you are not familiar with design thinking and human-centered design approaches, bring an expert onboard! There are facilitators that specialize in running teams through design thinking workshops. They will provide the structure and tools for you.

You have learned 4 amazing group brainstorming techniques to generate creative ideas that really help your future customers. Apply them in a few projects and see what works best for your projects.

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4 Great and Effective Brainstorming Ideas for Your Workshop

Oct 5, 2023 | Design Thinking, PRODUCTIVITY

by Corinne

by Corinne

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