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11 Brainstorming workshop rules for your corporate brainstorming session

How to get the most out of your brainstorming workshop

You are running a brainstorming workshop for your project?

A brainstorming workshop is a great way to come up with ideas. It’s one of the methods used in design thinking but is also well-known beyond the design thinking framework.


This post will explain the most important housekeeping rules for a corporate project workshop so that you can have a smooth session and produce lots of great ideas.


Housekeeping rules are important to follow in order to avoid distractions and allow everyone to be productive. Make sure you set the ground rules before getting started and make sure everyone follows them throughout the workshop.

How to set up a brainstorming workshop

Brainstorming workshops help to generate innovative ideas.

How do you plan and run a brainstorming workshop?

A good brainstorming workshop needs to be thought through and planned well.

It starts with providing a frame with a clearly formulated question. You also should carefully decide who to invite to the workshop. Then you plan your workshop meeting and define on who does what during and after the workshop.

At the start of the brainstorming workshop, the moderator sets the tone for the session.

One key element for this are the workshop rules. The team needs to be aligned on the rules so that they can build on a common foundation.

workshop rules poster during brainstorming session

Brainstorming workshop rules


How to go after your topic

1 | Think from different angles

Of course, we are bringing in our expertise in this workshop. But we shouldn’t forget that most other people are not as deep into the topic as we are. We think from our own view but also put ourselves in other people’s shoes:

How would a customer look at it?

Which information would a user need?

What are the first questions someone asks you when diving into this topic?

What is the feedback you have received?

Did you make interesting observations?

What value would a business person see?

We think of different people. We try to understand what their viewpoint is, what type of problems and questions they have, and where they would receive value.

Tip: Let’s challenge ourselves to capture as many angles to look at our topic as possible.


2 | Write everything down

When we think of our topic, we don’t only look at the formulated problem. We widen our horizon and include the big picture view as well:

For example, we don’t only look at a product for its intended purpose but also think of what a user would need before, during, and after use.

We think of locations, persons, materials, processes, mindsets, and other outside influences that play a role.



These mindset corner stones are your group’s foundation:

3 | Build on each other’s ideas

It’s totally irrelevant who had the idea, who brought how many ideas and who had the most unique idea.

We leave our ego and the company’s hierarchies outside the room. A group reaches more and higher quality results if there is no ownership of ideas and if people feel psychologically safe to speak up.

Building on each other’s ideas is the most wonderful thing: Some of us will be better at coming up with unique, new, maybe crazy ideas. Others will be better adding to what was said, putting meat on the bone.

However, our group dynamics work, all that counts is the result the group produces.


4 | No idea is a bad idea!

We are not worried about who will work on an idea after the workshop and how an idea will be brought to life.

One of the most important rules in this workshop is that it’s forbidden to classify an idea as a bad idea.

No explaining why something doesn’t work, this will kill the flow.

It may be that an idea is clearly unrealistic. But maybe it hints at a user need that was completely ignored until now. Maybe, after 5 prototyping cycles, our team finds a way how it can work. Maybe we need to wait a few years until technology can do what we envision.

We note down every idea and document them all.

After the brainstorming workshop is the time to bring ideas to life. The workshop itself is here to generate initial ideas.


5 | Go for quantity

In a brainstorming workshop, quantity is key.

Let’s challenge ourselves to fill as many sticky notes as possible, to look at a problem from many different perspectives, and come up with a rainbow of ideas.

Perfectionism slows us down so we don’t worry about getting things right.

An incomplete picture is ok.


6 | Make yourself a problem-solving detective

To not only throw around with ideas but get to something that we can work with after the workshop, we target to paint a lively picture of the topics that come up: We put on our imaginary detective hat and play problem-solving detective.

Discussing our topic, we keep our ears open for potential pain points, user needs, and factors that influence our subject in some way.

We track traces and find out where they lead.

We connect dots.



Practical tips and tricks

7 | Keep it short: Note in keywords and simple sketches

Ideas are best noted down in keywords or a simple sketch. This workshop isn’t the place to write long sentences and note every detail.

We capture the rough thought, that’s enough. We can also sketch. It costs courage to sketch if we are not used to it. But it doesn’t matter how our sketch looks. All that’s important is that it communicates our idea.


8 | Keep it simple, use active language

We put things as simple as we can. This ensures that everyone can build on all ideas in the room. We use words that everyone understands and use active language.


9 | One idea or keyword per sticky note

It’s best if we are writing down ideas on sticky notes or cards. That way, the group can sort and re-arrange them during discussions.

We write every keyword, thought, or sketch on its own card.


10 | Stick to timing! It will never be enough time and that’s ok.

In a brainstorming workshop, we always feel like there is not enough time.

That’s a good thing!

With time pressure, we have to come straight to the point. We are challenged to solve a problem without overthinking everything. We share spontaneous thoughts more likely than when we have to formalize them and share a full explanation.

Regardless of how much we would like to extend the time for a section within the workshop, we use that time pressure to our advantage: We respect the workshop leader’s agenda and take the challenge to show what’s possible within the limited amount of time we have.


11 | Use the right pen and write readable

To further work with our produced ideas, notes, and sketches, we document the process and outcome of this workshop. We only use pens that are readable on photos and we write clearly so that everyone can read.

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Summary: Brainstorming workshop rules

Workshop rules

  • Stick to timing! It will never be enough time and that’s ok.
  • Use the right pen and write readable
  • One idea or keyword per sticky note
  • Keep it short: Note in keywords and simple sketches
  • Keep it simple, use active language
  • Think from different angles
  • Write everything down
  • Go for quantity
  • Make yourself a problem-solving detective
  • Build on each other’s ideas
  • No idea is a bad idea!

I wish you a successful workshop!

Don’t forget to have fun in the process 😉

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11 Brainstorming Workshop Rules for Your Corporate Brainstorming Session

Sep 29, 2022 | Design Thinking, PRODUCTIVITY

last updated Dec 28, 2022

by Corinne

by Corinne

Learn how to run your brainstorming workshop

This guide goes into detail for planning, running and debriefing your brainstorming workshop.

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