Idea Sharing

This is part 3 in my series on brainstorming techniques.

In brainwriting, participants are focused on a single problem. Individuals write out their ideas, pass them around, and build on the ideas of others. But what if you want your room to be a bit more dynamic? What if you could pass your participants around instead of their lists of ideas? What if you could choreograph these movements in a way that supercharged your brainstorms, engaged your participants and increased your idea output? Maybe all that is needed is a bit more theatre to get our creative juices going…

These idea sharing techniques are all based on the concept of moving people around. I’ve had a lot of success with these approaches to brainstorms, and generally find them great at maintainging energy and focus as well as generating some really interesting ideas.

Publish, Circle, Refine

This works well for medium sized groups (16 or 20) focusing on a single problem with multiple possible solutions.

  • Divide the brainstorm into groups.  Each group has a flip chart.
  • Give all groups the question or challenge to be answered.
  • Each group lists their answers or solutions which they then PUBLISH on their flip chart.
  • One member of the group remains with the flip chart while the other participants CIRCLE around the room looking at and discussing the responses from other groups.  The remaining group member answers questions from circling groups.
  • Groups return to their original places and REFINE their answers.

World Cafe

This one works best with larger groups which can be divided into tables of 4, e.g. 16, 20 or 24 participants. You also need to have multiple problems to solve, one for each table.

  • Divide the brainstorm into groups of 4, seated facing each other with knees almost touching.  Each group has a flip chart on their laps to form a table.
  • The Maitre d’ gives each group a question or challenge to be answered, and a stack of coloured pens or crayons.
  • Each group has an open discussion, doddling and jotting down their thoughts on their ‘table’ as they speak.
  • The Maitre d’ introduces the next course, directing participants to change tables, leaving one member behind. Participants are encouraged to split up.
  • Each table should now have a completely different group. The remaining person introduces the discussion so far.
  • Talk and ideas continue to flow, wiht the ‘table cloth’ being added to by the new group.
  • This continues until everyoine has sat at every table.
  • Each group presents the ideas from the table they are sitting on.

Rotating Flipboards

A simplified (and less fun) version of the world cafe where each flip chart has its own problem. Groups start at one flip board, brainstorm and list their ideas, then move to the next clip chart. The session ends once everyone has visited every flipboard. Presentations are made at the end. Works well for groups of 10 or more

Art Gallery

The group is given the starting question or challenge before individually drawing sketches and images representing their solutions. No words are to be used. The artists then stick their pictures to the wall and circle the room looking for inspiration. Chairs are placed around the ‘gallery’ to allow participants to spontaneously sit down and jot down ideas as they come to mind. Arty discussions can be used to interpret the artwork if participants feel like it. LArger groups can be split into smaller sub groups, with a jointly produced artwork.


This is the group version of brainwriting I detailed in part 2.

  • Divide the brainstorm into groups.  Each group has an idea journal (e.g. an A3 piece of paper)
  • Give all groups the question or challenge to be answered.
  • Each group then conducts their own mini brainstorm and lists their ideas, before passing the idea journal to their left
  • Groups then read the incoming idea journal out loud, and conduct another mini brainstorm to add more ideas to the list
  • The session is over once groups have their original idea journal back again.

Thanks to MindTools for this explanation of the origins of the term Charette.


A small group (say 5 to 8 people) form a circle in the centre of the room and hold a conventional brainstorm, with a larger group of silent observers sitting around the outside of the room. The silent observers write out their own ideas on individual idea journals, to be collected and combined at the end. As with standard nominal brainstorming techniques, individual idea generators can select their top 5 ideas as part of a group ‘idea harvesting’ session conducted at the end. I’ve never tried this one, but read about it here and adapted it a bit to include the silent observers.


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