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Problem Solving Innovation

How to Brainstorm for Innovation

By: Alejandra Guillen—Content Creator

We’ve all heard it before: “You only have to be 10% smarter than the object you’re operating.” Simple, but surprisingly motivating. For entrepreneurs, this thought could mean the difference between just having an idea and actually having it come to fruition.

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An idea is like a baby – You protect it and nurture it, and even before it’s born, you are in love and find yourself picking out colleges. As exciting as generating an idea can be, it’s also where the risk lies. You fall in love with the execution of an idea too soon with no plan on how to actually perform the execution.

Here are a few ways you can brainstorm for innovation and follow through with your ideas.

Stop and Think

Before you charge forward with executing your idea, stop and think. Seriously – spend half a day getting dirty, ideating, and iterating on all the possible permutations. You might know the end game and the value proposition, but do you know whether users want to do what you’re asking? Or if your approach to the market is the right one to achieve your goals?

Take this for example: Let’s say you have a product that aims at improving online searching and bookmarking. Your initial vision is a browser plugin that remembers your favorite places and recommends search results based on what you like. Could be cool, right?

This is where you need to stop and think. The vision has potential, but will that execution drive the highest engagement and build momentum as quickly as possible? Maybe. Before picking that route, consider brainstorming some different permutations. What if instead you created an API that worked with a bunch of existing products with large user bases? What if your product was super targeted toward a very specific demographic, like high school students? You see where this is going, right? Great.

Brainstorming 101

Brainstorming isn’t always easy. Sometimes there are too many brains in the room, other times there aren’t enough. If you’re in a room full of execs, there’s a chance you’re afraid to share your ideas for fear of being shot down. When it comes to brainstorming, everything goes.

A good brainstorming session should include the following:

A Goal

When your brainstorm comes to an end, what is the goal you want the group to achieve? This goal should be your main focus throughout the session. As long as this end goal is kept in mind, unconventional and outlandish ideas are always welcome – sometimes these are the ideas that lead to something tangible.

A Diverse Group of People

At Tallwave, we like to involve people from different departments in our brainstorms. Oftentimes, this group consists of both people who are involved in the day-to-day of the project and external team members. External members may have previously worked on this account or helped solve a similar problem for another client. Being heavily involved in a project can cloud your judgement. A mix of main-team and external team members bring knowledge and a fresh perspective to the brainstorming session.

A Simple Structure

Don’t overthink a brainstorming session. Too many rules and regulations will kill the vibe and might make people panic. This could lead to an unsuccessful brainstorming session. Instead, keep a simple structure. Maybe a warm up with a summary that gets sent out to everyone afterward.

Here are a couple of our favorite and simple brainstorming activities to help drive innovation.

3-12-3 Method

This method refers to the amount of time given to the three activities this session includes. Three minutes to think about the characteristics of the topic at hand and write down as many as possible. Next, take twelve minutes to develop concepts, either with a partner or in small groups. Anything goes during these 12 minutes – rough sketches, prototypes, or other media can be produced during this time. These concepts will then be presented to the rest of the group, with a maximum of three minutes per presentation.

This method is awesome for coming up with multiple variations of a concept or idea.

How-Now-Wow Matrix

The How-Now-Wow method involves some artistry. Begin by drawing a 2x2 matrix with “originality” in the x-axis, and “feasibility” on the y-axis. The top right corner of your matrix will be the “How” section. This is where you put the ideas that are original and innovative, but not feasible at the moment. The “How” section can help influence future goals or objectives.

The bottom left corner will be your “Now” section. Here, you’ll put ideas that are unoriginal and familiar, but also easy to implement and are known to work well.

The bottom right corner will house your “Wow” concepts. These are ideas that are original and also easy to implement. Forming ideas that fall into this section should be something to strive for during the brainstorming section.

This concept can also be great for “closing,” or ranking, some of those ideas you came up with during the 3-12-3 activity.

Wellbeing North Star Method

Projects don’t always go as planned. This is a great method for evaluating some of the flops you may experience on your projects. Begin by drawing a star in the middle of a whiteboard or large poster. In the center, write the topic your brainstorm will be focusing on. This could be a project, a daily schedule, etc. On each point of the star, you’ll write what you want to focus on and discuss with your team. This could be graphics, communications, advertisements, upcoming tasks, etc.

Distribute sticky notes in two different colors to everyone. For a few minutes, have your brainstormers write what they like about the aspects on each point of the star on one color. Next, have them write what they dislike about each aspect. Once everyone is done, have them present their notes and post them under their respective aspects.

This method is extremely helpful in determining what is and isn’t working on a project or to evaluate an idea. Sometimes we like to flip this one around by focusing outward to analyze competition. This helps us better understand where there is opportunity for disruption.


When it comes to innovation, a brainstorming session can be your ticket to success. Give these methods a shot. If you need more help, you can always call us.

Written by Alejandra Guillen—Content Creator

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