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Brainstorm Technique #10: Sense From Nonsense


Brainstorm Technique: Sense From Nonsense

When it comes to problem-solving, generating a nonsense solution can be much easier than thinking of a good, workable solution. First, there’s no pressure involved in generating a solution you know is outlandish. Second, it gets the creative wheels turning and warmed up. Finally, it lightens the mood as brainstorm participants attempt to outdo each other. With Sense From Nonsense, you’ll be given full license to explore the absurd to find nuggets of wisdom that can help you achieve your brainstorm goal.

Ideal Activity For:
concept development, idea generation, theme development, blue sky thinking

Brainstorm Tools:
2-3 easel pads
permanent markers
small to medium sized meeting space

# of Participants:

How To Brainstorm With Sense From Nonsense:

  1. Review the Brainstorm Bill of Rights
  2. Review the Brainstorm Prep Checklist and answer the appropriate questions
  3. Gather supplies and book a small to medium sized conference room

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. 5-10 minutes)

  1. After quickly recapping the goal of the brainstorm session, give members to the group a few minutes to work independently to generate a nonsense solution to the opportunity at hand.
  2. If you’re working with an inexperienced group of brainstormers or creative thinkers, it may be best to develop a nonsense solution beforehand that you can read to the group. This will encourage them to push the boundaries and refrain from filtering themselves.
  3. When the group has one minute left, give them a time check and ask them to put any finishing touches on their idea.

Brainstorm Part 2: (approx. 5-15 minutes)

  1. Ask each participant to pass their paper in one direction (left, right or something unique)
  2. Give the new brainstorm participant the challenge of taking the nonsense idea and looking for a nugget of wisdom.
  3. Remind them, that they’re not responsible for developing the concept. They merely need to identify what it is.
  4. To ease the process of finding the nugget, invite participants to consider the exact opposite of the nonsense solution, change one key feature for the positive or exaggerate  some aspect of their nonsense solution in a positive manner.

Brainstorm Part 3: (approx. 20-40 minutes)

  1. Invite brainstorm participants to share their nugget with the larger group.
  2. Record ideas on an easel pad and invite everyone to build on and further explore them.
  3. Encourage conversation about each suggestion by asking probing questions.


  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 for reference at a later date.

inspired by a suggestion from @cazazz


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