I saw a headline on Twitter for an article on when a brainstorming session is done. Of course, I clicked on the Twitter link expecting an easy-to-scan list post. And of course, when the article wasn’t (it was a discussion about convergent thinking with no list anywhere to be seen), I lost interest as quickly as it took to click on the link. Before leaving the post, however, I noted a list post on signs a brainstorming session is done would be a great brainstorming blog post.

So . . .

10 Signs You're Done Brainstorming Ideas

Here are 10 signs I look for when facilitating a brainstorming session to know if it is done. You can tell you're done with a brainstorming session when:

1. You’ve reached your time limit

Every time The Brainzooming Group facilitates a brainstorming session, we set an expected time limit to make sure there’s intensity to the creative thinking throughout the brainstorming. When we reach the time limit, it may be well time to stop brainstorming. Often though, we add more time to the clock if the group is still doing productive creative thinking.

2. You only have one or two people participating

A rich brainstorming session demands active participation from a diverse group. If most of the group has stopped actively contributing ideas for others to consider, it’s time to take a break and regroup.

3. The pace of new ideas is slowing

In the The Brainzooming Group view, brainstorming is all about getting a large volume of ideas generated in a shorter amount of time than a person would take to do the creative thinking by him or herself. When a brainstorming session slows to a new idea rate that feels like a single person coming up with ideas, you’re done.

4. The group has reached “enough” possible ideas

As with setting a time limit, we’ll usually set an aggressive expectation for how many ideas the group should generate. While we rarely count the exact number of ideas generated, when it seems like they’ve met the number target, it could be time to finish.

5. The “right” answer has appeared

We always apply our own creative thinking before a brainstorming session to anticipate what intriguing ideas might emerge from the group. When the brainstorming group has more than delivered on the expectations, they get to stop.

6. New angles and perspectives aren’t productive

If a particular creative thinking exercise is proving to be its own roadblock to generating new ideas – and trying other creative thinking exercises doesn’t help – it may be best to wait for another day and another group for brainstorming.

7. People get that “look” in their eyes

That “look” can vary – blank stares, glazed over, no eye contact – to name a few. When you start seeing these, it’s clearly time to move on from the brainstorming you're doing.

8. The brainstorming facilitator gets bored

Yes, facilitators can get bored with brainstorming exercises. If you find your interest wavering, you need to do something different. It may not be quitting, but it may mean taking a break to refresh, regroup, and get ready to try another brainstorming exercise.

9. There’s too much repetition in the ideas

No idea is a bad idea in brainstorming, which means it’s okay if somebody repeats an idea that’s close or exactly the same as an idea someone just said. When this starts happening too often though, it’s a sign your brainstorming exercise is losing its efficiency and effectiveness.

10. Too many ideas are getting too far off target

Again, you’ll hear ideas that are pretty far removed from the brainstorming topic at hand. Sometimes that leads to new and even more fertile paths. If it starts happening too much and the wacky ideas aren’t leading to greater productivity, call it a wrap. - Mike Brown


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

If you’re struggling to generate and implement new ideas, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our strategic thinking, innovation, and implementation tools on to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your innovation challenges.