Brainstorming Techniques to Get Your Creativity Going

Creativity and innovation are essential skills for developing e-Learning. But some days the ideas just aren’t flowing, and you might be in need of a brainstorming session. If the words “brainstorming session” just painted a scary picture of an awkward meeting where everyone just stares at each other blankly, don’t panic. Every brainstorming session can be a productive, creativity-inspiring and fun experience! Use these 7 tips to turn your next brainstorming session into a flood of ideas, not a pen-chewing, finger-tapping blank page.

  1. Minimize distractions. Start by blocking out 15 minutes that you can devote solely to brainstorming. Close your office door or put your headphones in. You can’t let your creativity flow when coworkers are popping in with questions or small talk. A great thing to do is turn off the volume on your computer, so you’re not constantly interrupted by your email notification “ping.” Can’t work in silence, but find music too distracting? Use white noise generators like SimplyNoise or RainyMood that allow you to block out distracting background noise and encourage focus.
  2. Use mind maps. Mind mapping is a powerful brainstorming tool, also known as concept mapping, spray diagrams, webs and spider diagrams. Mind maps are a great way to organize your ideas and see connections between what you thought were unrelated concepts. Essentially, you write a lot of different terms and ideas onto a sheet of paper as they come to you and then go back to link the words together into a map or web that forms groups from the separate parts. It will seem like chaos at first, but afterwards you organize the ideas and see how they connect.
    Below is a sample mind map created using, a free online tool you can use to create your own mind map. You can see that the brainstorming goal was to generate possible e-Learning course topics (shown in the yellow bubble), and for each topic (in the red bubbles) there are possible chapters or sections that branch out from the course topic. One nice thing about using this tool versus creating a map by hand is how easy it is to move around and organize ideas.

    Here are some tips for creating mind maps:

    • Use single words or simple phrases. Short and sweet is the key to making mind maps. Excess words just clutter the map and make it harder to identify key ideas.
    • Print words. If you’re making your map with pen and paper, write neatly! To ensure legibility, you can also use an online mind map generator or the SmartArt Hierarchy tool in Microsoft PowerPoint.
    • Use color to separate different ideas. This will enable you to separate concepts. It also helps you to visualize your map for easy recall. Color can also show the organization of the subject.
    • Use symbols and images. Pictures can help you to remember information more effectively than words, so be sure to include symbols and images.
    • Cross-link ideas. Draw lines to show the connections between ideas in your map. You might be surprised to see how one part of an idea affects another.
  3. Take a break and get out of the office. It’s tough to keep up momentum when you’re generating tons of ideas in a short period. A break will allow you to regroup, refresh and rest your brain, so you’re ready for round 2! Plus, sometimes a change of scenery and a break from the office routine is just what you need to generate new ideas. Try going to a nearby coffee shop or an outdoor park.
  4. Go crazy! Write down every idea you have, no matter how crazy it seems. You never know where you’ll find the seeds of a good, workable idea. The key to brainstorming is to be open to all ideas. Generate as many ideas as you can, even crazy ones, and then evaluate your list when you’re finished.
  5. Act like your customers. A great way to get ideas for your e-Learning is to get inside the heads of your learners. What makes them tick? If you’re designing e-Learning for pilots, try playing a flight simulation game. Creating a wilderness skills course for Boy Scouts? Go hiking! You’ll be surprised by what ideas you shake loose when you’re in your learners’ shoes.
  6. 3"x5" cards. Sometimes daily life is the best brainstorming session. Keep writing materials, like a pen and a few 3"x5" index cards with you at all times. You never know when inspiration will strike, and this way you’ll be ready to write down ideas before you forget them. Plus, it’s easy to organize 3"x5" cards on a bulletin board later and review all your ideas at once. Then you can select the best one and implement it.
  7. Number your ideas. While the structure of a numbered list may seem to counter the free flow of a brainstorming session, numbering things makes it easy to give yourself a goal, such as “Come up with 5 more course topic ideas” or “Come up with 3 different themes for this course objectives page.” This is a great way to motivate yourself to keep thinking, even when you feel like you’re out of ideas.

You don’t have to use all these brainstorming techniques at once—give them each a try and find the one that works the best for you. Soon you’ll be generating so many ideas you won’t be able to fit them all into your e-Learning courses! Check out the Lectora e-Learning Blog or Lectora University for more great e-Learning tips, tricks and video resources!