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Brainstorm Technique #5 – Forced Connections

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Black and white macro of power plug.


Brainstorm Technique: Forced Connections

The brainstorm technique known as forced connections is designed to take two unrelated concepts and forge a relationship between them. In this process, the brainstorm group is usually divided into subgroups, which can be as small as two people. This group picks two topics at random and is challenged to brainstorm a way to connect them together.

Ideal Activity For:
branding, concept generation, event planning

Brainstorm Tools:
4-6 20”x30” easel pads
20+ small pieces of paper (for forced connection topics)
2-3 small cups or other containers
permanent markers

# of Participants:
4 – 10+

How To Brainstorm With Forced Connections:

  1. Review the Brainstorm Bill of Rights
  2. Review the Brainstorm Prep Checklist and answer the appropriate questions
  3. Pre-brainstorm forced connection topics. To do this, begin by creating two or more topics. For example, if the subject of the brainstorm was dog food, two possible topics could be “likable traits about dogs” and “benefits of the dog food.” Think of words or phrases that match these two categories and write them down on small pieces of paper. Separate the ideas by topic and place them in a container together.
  4. Gather remaining supplies and book a conference room (if needed)

Brainstorm Intro: (approx. time varies by experience level)

  1. Review Brainstorm Bill of Rights with participants
  2. Establish the goal of the brainstorm by discussing the BrainBrief™
  3. Kick-off the meeting with an Icebreaker (if needed)

Brainstorm Part 1: (approx. 10-20 minutes)

  1. Divide your brainstorm group into smaller teams of 2-3 people, and allow them to pick one topic from each of your categories.
  2. Give the groups a pre-determined time to create a connection between the topics drawn. If, after a few minutes, a group is still struggling to create a connection between the words they’ve drawn, allow them to put one of their words back into the container and draw a new word.
  3. Encourage groups to record their thoughts on a piece of paper that will be turned in at the end of the brainstorm.
  4. Repeat this exercise as time and available brainstorm topics permit. Feel free to reorganize the groups between each round.

Brainstorm Part 2: (approx. 10-30 minutes)

  1. Ask each group to share their ideas with the larger group. Each group should start by revealing the two starter topics they received as inspiration.
  2. Record the shared ideas on easel pads.
  3. Invite other brainstorm participants to build as thoughts occur to them.


  1. Thank all the participants for their input
  2. Select concepts for further development  (can be done alone or as part of the group)
  3. Be sure to capture all the notes and take them with you. It’s often easiest to take digital photos of easel pads for reference at a later date.

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