Posted by: PC | January 18, 2010

The Art of Brainstorming :: Wander Into The Chaos

Creativity is not inspired by new ideas. It is obsessively frustrated with the idea that already exists.

A study I recently read about showed brain activity at its most creative moments. The exhaustive information showed that our brain is its most creative in the moments when it is allowed to wonder and wander a bit into the chaos. That sets the premise for dynamic brainstorming.

Brainstorming sessions are vital to the creativity and inspiration of your group. There are a few base rules for brainstorming. Assuming these rules are obeyed, there are steps to take for vibrant sessions.

3 Rules of Brainstorming

1. Never Say No (write everything)
You never know what could be used. The most ridiculous things may be used later. One of my students always says “Exodus” no matter what we are brainstorming. Its never been used, but it always gets written.

2. There WILL be Chaos (don’t be afraid to be messy)
Brainstorm facilitation is not for the Type A. Let the Type B facilitate the brainstorm and give the results to the Type A.

3. Every Man for Himself (are your ideas THAT good)
Encourage your participants to be vocal and strong with their thoughts. It keeps the energy up and the ideas flowing.

4 Steps to Brainstorming

1. Define Your Problem
Why are we here? What mindset should I be in? Begin the session with a statement like, “We have an opportunity to _______.” OR “We have not been successful at __________.”

2. Ask Questions
Prepare several before you begin and allow for spontaneous questions that keep the flow moving. Keep moving to more questions! You may be rephrasing the previous question, but always keep asking.

3. Answer questions…quickly! (overcast)
You don’t want the energy to let up. The moment the group begins to look blankly at you, ask another question. If they have a strong enough answer to an earlier question, they will go back to it. Don’t get stuck on one question.

4. Apply Lateral Thinking (clouding)
Your board (or in my case, my window) should be filled with words and ideas by now, but the storm is only just reaching its pinnacle. Begin to create your cloud off of the stronger terms and ideas on the board. Write out key words, word associations, song lyrics, rhyming words, etc. Fill in the spaces with more and more words.

I did not include this in the 4 Steps because organization is what you do after the storm. At this point you ask questions of the ideas presented on the board.

My favorite question is, “Which of these ideas would we be stupid to ignore?” Similar questions may be, “Which of these will our group definitely engage with?” “Which of these are GREAT ideas?” “Which of these do you REALLY want to see happen?” (Circle those)

Then ask, “Which of these are we just NOT going to do?” “Which of these probably won’t work for our group?” “Let’s be honest; which of these aren’t going to happen?” (Erase all the “exoduses”)

* It is important to allow your group to form this process. As leaders, we already know what ideas WE are excited about. Allowing for the chaos often means we are allowing the group to dream bigger than our ideas.

A few helpful resources: – FREE
A great free brainstorming website. Perhaps you want to use it to brainstorm for your teachings, meetings, personal blog , or you can facilitate a group session on a projector. Save your brainstorms in files. Great resource!

Giant picture frame – $30-40
Whiteboards are for squares!  I once was without one. So I grabbed my dry erase markers (yes, I always have them) and began writing on my office window. Once I moved to a windowless office, something had to change.

Leaders spend a lot of time reading leadership books. How often do you read books about creativity? A couple of my recent favorites are:

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

PC Walker is a Midwestern kid (Indiana) who moved to California in 2003 with his wife, Tonya. He has been involved in College and Young Adult Ministry at varying capacity for nearly a decade. You’re more likely to find him in a coffee shop than his office; He would rather meet you “out there” than “in here”. He did his undergraduate work at Anderson University and his graduate work at Hope International University. You can follow his blog or find him on facebook or twitter.



  1. […] and read the previous posts here :: Part 1 // by Justin Wallace :: Part 2 // by Benson Hines :: Part 3 // by PC Walker :: Part 4 // by Dave […]

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