InvENting 101: How to Brainstorm

InvENting 101: How to Brainstorm

In our regular InvENtor Spotlight posts, you may have noticed that we often ask the question,

“Do you find ideas come to you or do you have to go after them?”

“Both. Sometimes an idea will just pop into my head and other times I have to go after them. I love when they just pop into my head. When I go after ideas I tend to overthink them.” – Melissa Senatore

“Ideas, for the most part, tend to come to me. But what I might do to get things percolating is think about a problem or some subject such as toys and just relax. I go about by life and let my subconscious do the work to come up with solutions or new product ideas. The good ones will manifest themselves from the subconscious to the conscious.” – James Sweed

“Ideas come to me. They pop into my head. Two of my current ideas came to me while I was waking up. After that the details need to be developed and worked out. The ideas don’t first appear in ready to use form!” – Sarah Mann

“Depends. Sometimes things just pop in my head. Sometimes I’m fueled by a project at work or a search on EN. As I am sure a lot of the community members will agree, when you have the “creative bug” it’s never turned off. Every day I’m consistently inspired, and searching for my next big idea.” – Kristen Ami

No matter how ideas may come to you, whether you have to work at it or if they come to you after waking from a dream or even in the shower, in order to perfect an idea, brainstorming is required.

In this InvENting 101 post, we’re diving into the art of brainstorming – what it is, the methodology behind it and how it can help YOU perfect your next idea!

Brainstorm: To use the collective mind to meet goals and objectives, find solutions, overcome challenges and solve problems.

The concept of Brainstorming was developed by Madison Avenue advertising executive, Alex Osborn, in 1953. Brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving with lateral thinking. It encourages people to come up with thoughts and ideas that can, at first, seem crazy. Some of the ideas can be crafted into original, creative solutions to a problem, while others can spark more ideas. Brainstorming can get people out of their creative ruts forcing them to “think outside the box.”

Brainstorming can be done in groups or individually. While a portion of our innovator community does work together in groups, the majority operates individually. When you brainstorm on your own, the pressure of dealing with other people’s ego or opinions is gone, which allows you to be more creative and free. Individual brainstorming can be most effective when you need to solve a simple problem, generate a list of ideas or focus on a broad issue – challenges often faced when coming up with an invention idea. This being said, in this post, we’re going to focus on individual brainstorming.

To get the most out of your individual brainstorming session, make sure you choose a comfortable place to sit and think, minimizing distractions.

In most development projects, the focus is on quality over quantity. With brainstorming, the goal is the exact opposite. Brainstorming is the first step in the exploration phase of a new project, so it is important to be open to all ideas and possibilities.

There are many different techniques to help you brainstorm in both group and individual sessions. We’ve compiled five of our favorites that may help “spark” your next idea!

Brain Writing

This is the simple process of writing down your ideas. This technique can be used individually or in groups to give everyone more time to think ideas over without being influenced by others. Brain writing is effective for individuals to develop more unique ideas.

Figure Storming

This is a technique where you put yourself in someone else’s shoes to approach the problem. Think about how someone such as your boss, a famous celebrity or, for innovators, your target audience, might approach the situation. When you brainstorm questions that revolve around the possible actions a third party, you can free ideas that aren’t limited to just you, or your brainstorming group – everyone is given a different viewpoint.

Online Brainstorming (Brain-netting)

There are many online collaboration tools and exercises available to help you capture your ideas. Some tools use online mind-mapping to answer very specific questions or generate ideas that may relate to the main problem.

As an innovator, before you share any ideas publicly, ensure the ideas are protected and that confidentiality is maintained with a non-disclosure agreement. As a reminder, all ideas that are shared with Edison Nation are done via our secure online submission system and protected by the standard terms and conditions of our innovator agreement.

Rapid Ideation

This technique requires you to set a time limit for yourself (or your group) to write down as many thoughts or ideas around the topic as possible. Don’t worry about filtering the ideas. You can use a simple pen and paper, a whiteboard, even Post-It notes. Set a timer anywhere from five to 45 minutes, depending on the complexity of the topic. This technique helps you from getting sidetracked or overthinking.


This technique focuses on creating questions versus answers. List questions that address the who, what, where, when and why. This style of brainstorming can help assure all aspects of the project are addressed before any work goes into executing it.

In inventing, this can help you determine how unique your concept is, and subsequently, how likely it would be to be patented. It can help determine your target audience and what is innovative about your product, providing you with information to include in your submission form.

One thing to be cautious of, particularly as an innovator, is to avoid falling down “rabbit holes” taking you completely off course from your initial reason for brainstorming in the first place. To combat this potential hazard, take these steps before starting your brainstorming session:

Lay out the problem you want to solve.

In the case of coming up with an idea in response to an Edison Nation innovation search, review the criteria of the search carefully – you may even want to list the criteria on paper for yourself to keep focus.

Identify the objectives of a possible solution.

A great example is provided by David Kelley of IDEO when he wanted to design a product that would enable cyclists to transport and drink coffee while they were riding. A couple of ways to describe what he wanted to design: “spill-proof coffee cup lids,” or “bicycle cup holders.” But, a much better description is the following objective: “helping bike commuters to drink coffee without spilling it or burning their tongues.” Kelley liked this statement because it clearly las out IDEO’s objectives, to help bike commuters:

  • Drink coffee
  • Avoid spills
  • Not burn their tongues.

Going into that much details before brainstorming about ways to design the product makes the team much more likely to succeed.

There are many other online resources that can help you with brainstorming – check out the sources below to learn more.

We invite you to check out our current searches from BernzOmatic, Balloon Time and Real Simple to brainstorm for new unique uses for existing things. We hope these tips and tricks spark your next idea!

Happy Inventing!


Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if??”

We exist to get product ideas out of your head and onto retail shelves, all at no risk to you.

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