How to use the rapid ideation technique for brainstorming

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
September 12, 2023
An illustration of a brainstorm with sticky notes in Mural
How to use the rapid ideation technique for brainstorming
Written by 
Bryan Kitch
September 12, 2023

Brainstorming techniques come in all shapes and sizes. But there’s one method that does the best job of removing any hesitation to share (or edit) half-baked or silly ideas. 

It’s called rapid ideation.  

Whether you’re brainstorming for new product ideas, or iterating on possible solutions to business challenges, rapid ideation forces you and your team to contribute all ideas that come to mind. There’s no time to get stuck on any single idea and to try and improve it. 

And contrary to how it might feel, you’ll likely end up with more good options that you can build on than if you had just focused on taking your time to come up with the “best” ideas.

What is rapid ideation? 

Rapid ideation is a brainstorming technique used to produce a great number of ideas quickly in a short amount of time. The goal of rapid ideation is to record your ideas without editing, criticizing, or discussing feasibility until later. Rapid ideation can help teams ideate quickly and without fears of judgment or criticism. 

There are a few types of brainstorming techniques that use rapid ideation as part of the creative thinking process. These include: 

  • Mind mapping: Start with one word or theme and add any related terms or concepts that come to mind. 
  • Brainwriting: Write your idea, then pass it on to the next person to immediately build on it. 
  • Crazy eights: Sketch out eight ideas in 8 minutes. 
  • Round robin brainstorming: Similar to brainwriting, but rather than building on the idea, the next person finds its weaknesses, and then provides feedback on how to improve it.  

With rapid ideation, the members of the brainstorming group work in real-time to generate as many possible solutions as they can to the prompt or challenge. This type of creative thinking on the spot can be easier for some than others. So it helps to set up guidelines and provide your team with tips and resources for this process.

Why is rapid ideation important?

Beyond the obvious advantage of having more ideas to use for problem-solving in your team, the rapid ideation process provides several benefits:

  • Enhanced creativity: Rapid ideation encourages participants to think freely without the fear of criticism or judgment. By bypassing the editor inside of us, rapid ideation unlocks you and your team's creative potential.
  • Improved decision-making: Rapid ideation's structured approach, including time limits, idea clarification, and idea organization, streamlines the decision-making process. It enables teams to quickly sift through a multitude of ideas, identify the most promising ones, and focus their efforts on developing feasible solutions, ultimately saving time and resources.
  • Lower emotional attachment to ideas: Rapid ideation discourages participants from becoming overly attached to a single concept. This reduces potential resistance to change and makes it easier to adapt and refine ideas as the process unfolds.

Best practices for running a rapid ideation session 

If you’ve gathered your team together for a session of rapid ideation, you're likely in your first phase of brainstorming for a problem you need to solve. Maybe you need to develop a new website for a customer, or maybe you want to come up with creative ways to kickstart your new product launch. Whatever the case, there are a few best practices you can follow so that your rapid ideation process is a success. 

Select the right online visual platform for brainstorming 

As a remote team, your collaboration tools can help make the ideation process more organized and efficient, increasing productivity. Pick a platform that'll be conducive to your goals. 

Some key features for rapid ideation in a visual collaboration platform include:

  • A timer to keep things on track
  • An online whiteboard with color-coded sticky notes  
  • Visual design elements 
  • Private mode so that participants can work independently, even when working together
  • The ability to sketch or prototype your ideas 
  • Brainstorming templates or guided methods for brainstorming

Try different techniques to get into a flow     

Provide your team members with various brainstorming methods they can use to start firing away ideas. For those who can’t easily get into the flow, you can build creative prompts and questions related to your challenge or objective. It also helps to encourage team members to try out creative exercises like mind mapping, role-playing, or reverse thinking.

Mural also offers a collection of brainstorming templates to help your team jumpstart ideation. Check out Mural’s brainstorming templates to get started!

Add one distinct idea per sticky note 

To keep things simple, make sure everyone only adds one idea per sticky note or designated block. Team members can color code or label their sticky notes to track who contributed each idea. Even if someone has two or more similar suggestions, keep them in separate notes so that you can easily either remove or build on them later. 

Go for quantity over quality

The goal is to have as many contributions as possible per participant. Encourage wild ideas and remind everyone that during this phase, there are no “bad ideas.” So they don’t need to apologize for them or create a pile of “maybes.” The elimination of ideas will happen later in the process. The more idea generation you have, the higher the likelihood you’ll find your potential solutions.

Set time limits  

If you’re familiar with the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll know that setting time limits can help maintain the pace, focus, and productivity of your team. Assign a facilitator to set a timer, typically 3-5 minutes long. It’s best if the team can see the timer as it counts down to instill a sense of urgency and motivation. To sustain the engagement and creativity, split the session up with breaks in between your timed blocks of idea generation. 

Clarify the ideas (also timed) 

Once you’ve gone through the process of idea generation, it’s now time to share and explain them. In some cases, the ideas aren't immediately obvious or clear. Whether it’s a doodle, a sketch, or maybe just a few unintelligible keywords, this is each team member's time to clarify their ideas. 

To keep things moving along, each explanation should also be timed so that no one person is taking too long to describe their suggestions. Try setting aside 10-15 minutes, or 1-2 minutes for each idea to quickly go through and clarify the ideas you already have. It’s also important to remind everyone that this phase is a judgment-free zone during which feedback is temporarily withheld.

Organize and vote on the best ideas 

Once your team is through discussing their ideas, start affinity clustering. This is when you group related ideas together to find themes and patterns. You can color code the sticky notes by theme or relevance, or create labeled categories and place each related suggestion underneath. This visualization will give everyone a better idea of your options. 

Then your team will vote on the best ideas, eliminating the ones that aren't feasible or won’t work. 

Collaborating at a rate that works for your team 

Regardless of how you structure your rapid ideation sessions, every team will work slightly differently. Depending on the problems you’re trying to solve or the ideas you’re working on, you might have different time durations or steps in the process.

It might take some trial and error, but eventually, you’ll find the sweet spot. The key is to use the tools that help make it easier each time..   

Mural is a great tool for team brainstorming and ideation. With Mural, you have a dedicated space for teams to gather and collaborate in real-time (or async), along with templates and features that help you get the best ideas from everyone on your team. 

Get started with a free Mural account and level-up your teamwork today.

About the authors

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.