What Is a Brainstorming Template? (With Benefits and Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Brainstorming is a valuable tool for generating solutions to problems and innovative ideas. To add focus and organization to a brainstorming session, consider using a template. Understanding why you might want to use a template and the different ones that exist can help your team derive better solutions to existing problems. In this article, we discuss what a brainstorming template is, explain the benefits of using one, explore how to use a brainstorming template, look at some examples, and discuss tips to improve your brainstorming sessions.

What is a brainstorming template?

When collaborating on ideas with a team, you might benefit from knowing what a brainstorming template is and how you can use one. Brainstorming templates are tools that help generate, record, organize, and evaluate a large group of ideas. They can be useful when trying to organize the suggestions and solutions of various team members. Once you've gathered all those ideas into your template, you and your team can then work towards developing a strategy, troubleshooting the problem you're discussing, or improve a process your team is evaluating.

Some templates provide questions to get your thoughts generating. While others walk you through various brainstorming phases and then help you categorize ideas into more manageable groupings from which you can then derive solutions.

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Benefits of using a brainstorming template

The obvious benefit of using a template is it can help get you started when you don't know where to begin. A template helps you not only generate ideas, it also helps you organize them into ways that make them easier to evaluate. Templates let you capture a large volume of thoughts quickly, so nothing gets missed. They can help make your team more productive, ensure the consideration of everyone's ideas, and help your team solve problems or create innovative solutions.

When working on large or complex tasks, consider using templates to keep track of ideas and suggestions for different phases of a project. Templates are also useful for providing structure to group meetings to keep everyone focused on the task.

How to brainstorm using a template

Here are the steps you can follow to make your brainstorming session as efficient and productive as possible:

1. Define the session's goal

Before attempting to use a template, define the session's goals and what problem or question you're trying to answer with the brainstorming session. Defining the criteria can help determine which type of template you might want to use. For example, if you want to brainstorm about ways to improve office culture, that template might look very different from one you might use to brainstorm the solution to a drop in sales.

The overall goal of a brainstorming session is to leave with an action plan everyone can execute on, but getting more specific about your goals can give everyone clearer direction on the next steps you take together.

Related: How to Create an Effective Ideas Board (With Steps)

2. Review template types

Once you establish your goal, you can look for a brainstorming template most likely to lead you to the answer you seek. Some templates focus on getting to the root causes of problems, while others have less structure and allow ideas to be more free-flowing. If there are no templates that seem to suit your purposes, you can also work backwards from your goal and define what types of ideas you want to generate.

3. Invite others to join

An effective brainstorming session includes several people to help increase the volume of ideas you generate. Consider drawing from people who bring diverse perspectives to the problem so you can get diverse solutions. You might establish ground rules that ask everyone to come with a positive attitude and be respectful of everyone's voice. If you have a remote team, there are templates designed for this type of environment as well.

4. Assign a moderator

Assign someone to lead the discussion, whether it's you or someone else. This can help keep everyone focused and engaged. Ensure your moderator brings everyone back to the task when the conversation deviates. Consider using something like a board or screen where everyone can see the ideas written down as they're shared. The moderator can also fill in the template during the discussion and help ensure you hear everyone's ideas.

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5. Brainstorm and record ideas

When the meeting starts, present the problem and the corresponding project guidelines to the team. Explain the goals of the meeting and what you hope the session accomplishes. As people are sharing, ask questions for clarification and record every idea. Resist the urge to dismiss suggestions before recording them in your template. You might get a different perspective on it when you go back to analyze your notes later.

6. Review and discuss

Once everyone shares their ideas with the group, decide on what seems like the most viable suggestions and evaluate the positives and negatives of each. Consider any challenges that might arise from executing any of the proposed solutions. You may also want to discuss any unintended consequences or future outcomes of following each path.

7. Select the best option

After analyzing the pros and cons, you can then choose your planned course of action. This step might happen at the same meeting, but it also might happen at a later date after you and your team take some time to think about the options further. Once you decide on the solution, discuss how your team implements the idea. Identify who leads which aspects and create a rough draft of your proposed action plan.

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8. Execute your idea and evaluate

Work through your action plan and check with team members to ensure the tasks are being completed. During the process, evaluate the success of your strategy. If there are areas of improvement, write them down so you can use them in future brainstorming sessions.

Example brainstorming templates

There are a variety of templates you can use to help you meet your goals. Here are a few examples:

The fishbone diagram

The fishbone brainstorming technique uses the idea of cause and effect to brainstorm solutions. Its name derives from the fact that you can draw a centre line that represents the goal or the problem and then additional lines that branch off, creating an effect that resembles a fishbone. To use this template, your team can categorize all the outcomes from following a particular solution. Once your session is complete, the template creates a map of root causes and their corresponding effects you can then analyze to determine the best solution.

Related: How to Promote Creativity at Work (With its Benefits)

Mind mapping

Mind mapping uses circles connected by lines to link thoughts and organize ideas. This is a free from way of brainstorming that allows ideas to flow in an organic way. The intent is to mimic how the mind works and provide some structure for your thoughts. When using this technique, try to keep your map open and loose.

The five whys template

This template helps you identify the root cause of a problem by asking why until you get to a point where you can identify the key issue. To create this template, write down your first question and then answer it. Then ask the next why question that is introduced by that answer. For example, you might wonder why employee morale is low at your organization:

  • Why is employee morale low? Because they feel unappreciated.

  • Why do they feel unappreciated? Because no one recognizes their hard work.

  • Why is their work not being recognized? Because we're too busy.

  • Why are we too busy? We're taking on too many projects.

  • Why are we taking on too many projects?

You can continue asking questions until you get to a point where you see a solution.

Tips to maximize brainstorming meetings

After selecting your preferred brainstorming method, here are some tips you can use to maximize the success of your meetings:

Remove limitations

Ensure that you give all ideas equal weight and consideration. Never dismiss anything immediately. Sometimes the best solutions come from ideas that, at first, seem unlikely or impossible. By removing limitations, you also can ensure everyone in the room feels comfortable voicing their suggestions and that the best solution doesn't remain unsaid by someone too intimated to speak.

Adapt templates

The perfect template for your problem may not exist. If you can't find exactly what you're looking for, consider adapting another template or creating your own. Templates can offer a good place to start your brainstorming efforts, but if something is missing, add that feature to keep the conversation progressing.

Set a time limit

When setting up your brainstorming sessions, set a time limit to help keep everyone focused. A time limit can help people to think more productively and keep them more engaged. While you want to keep your sessions organic and free-flowing, you also don't want people to lose interest if the meeting goes on for too long.

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