This content was created by Girlboss in partnership with Notion.
We can’t remember a time in our lives when we were actually taught how to brainstorm. We always thought we just had to lock ourselves in a room, put our phone on airplane mode, light a candle with some mind-stimulating essential oils and stare at a blank screen until we came up with the most genius idea that has ever crossed our mind. Clearly, that is just a recipe for creative frustration—and not creative genius. We asked some of the savviest, seasoned brainstorming pros on the team to share the best brainstorming hacks they’ve learned along the way. (This is basically an official sneak peek of our very-top-secret brainstorming guide that just so happens to live in our team’s Notion.) Here’s what they had to say:
Prepare for creativity. “Many people think creativity starts with an idea, but the reality is, most creative ideas don’t just pop into your head. You need to establish circumstances for it to happen. We normally try to shut out all distractions, but it’s actually better to let a variety of information in. Listen to a podcast, go for a walk, catch up with a friend. You’ll be surprised at how much more inspired you are after.” — Lulu Liang, CEO
Plant the seed. “Right after I receive a brief, I always make sure that I take a few minutes to read the directions. I then quickly put it away and let the thoughts come to me naturally over the course of a few days. I used to simply set aside a block of time to brainstorm, but found that the best ideas would flow in the moments when my mind was able to wander (showers, walks, cleaning, etc). I now realize the importance of planting the seed, and then walking away. When ideas come to me, I’ll type them up in Notion, so I know I can come back to it later. By the time I actually reach my scheduled brainstorming time, I’ve already done most of the work.” — Vanessa Cocuzzo, executive assistant
Define your box. “Prior to a formal brainstorm, I like to set out a clear definition of the problem/outline the key goal, sharing some initial links and examples. It's hard to think outside of the box if you don't have one to begin with!” — Margot Thomas, brand partnerships manager
Get an outside perspective. “It's easy to get stuck in a brain loop when you and your team are too close to the topic, or have already ideated on a specific subject. Ask someone outside of work, like your mom, roommate or your cat, what they think. It's a great way to get a fresh perspective.” — M.T.
Give yourself a time limit. “I definitely find that I get my best work done with the right amount of pressure. (Classic procrastination excuse or brainstorm hack? I guess we’ll never know…) With ample time to brainstorm it’s hard to focus and come up with creative ideas. I like to take a look at a brief, absorb all of the info I need to, and then give myself a bit of pressure with a timer to see what I can immediately come up with. I dump out all of my knee-jerk thoughts and ideas in Notion—no matter how good or bad they are. From there, I’ll come back to my first ideas and see what sticks and what should go.” — Paige Cey, marketing & content coordinator
Use a thesaurus. “After reading a brief, one of the first steps I do is think of the feelings associated with it, and jot them down. Once I have the feelings, I think of other words to describe them—this is really helpful with a thesaurus. Discovering different ways to express an idea with words and feelings usually helps me brainstorm!” — Jules Diva, senior designer
Prioritize and stay focused: “Brainstorming is a lot of fun—but it can be a bit daunting. And sometimes, things can go off track very easily (like somehow ending up on TikTok when you should be thinking of ideas). Prioritize the topics that need to be addressed first, then allow space for a free flow of thoughts. It’s important to encourage wild ideas, and for this to be enjoyable, you have to be concise and stay focused to complete the project effectively.” — Kelly McCabe, brand partnerships manager
Get visual: “I don't know about you, but I still love picture books… (even as a 25 year old). And adding pictures to a brainstorming session makes things so much more exciting. I love brainstorming digitally because I can type so much faster than I can write, and my favorite thing to do is add emojis that are relevant to each topic! That’s why I’m obsessed with Notion. It genuinely makes me happier when I look at my notes.” — K.M.
Know which type of brainstorming is needed: “Yes, there is more than one way to brainstorm. Let’s break them all down:
The focus group: People from different departments share their ideas. This offers up a wide range of perspectives, and it’s great for defining a problem.
The team brainstorm: Break the team into smaller groups and give each group a set time to think of ideas. Bring the groups back together and get them present to the larger team. This works wonders for a team that has a competitive spirit.
Speedstorming: Each team member shares 3 ideas in 5 minutes. Do this 3 times using different prompts and you’ve got a bunch of ideas in 15 minutes. This is great if you’re in a time crunch!” — L.L.