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Brainstorm Technique #12: Inside The Box

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Brainstorm Technique: Inside The Box

Outside the box is a vast and intimidating place. With so many possibilities and a blank piece of paper, it can be hard to know where to start. For consumers, it’s called the Paradox of Choice. It’s no different for brainstormers. At times like these, the best place to start is inside the box. Explore every corner and crevice of the box, and once the ideas start flowing then you can break down the walls and mentally frolic outside the box.

Ideal Activity For:
creativity exercises, problem solving, concept development

Brainstorm Tools:
2-3 easel pads
permanent markers
small to medium sized meeting space
list of limitations – written on individual pieces of paper

# of Participants:
How To Brainstorm Inside The Box:

  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
  4. Assemble a list of the limitations of the project (e.g. deadline, budget, manpower, etc. the more complete the list the better)

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. After quickly recapping the goal of the brainstorm session, randomly assign a limitation to each individual or group.
  2. Instruct your participants to think about how they would solve the problem if this limitation was the ONLY obstacle they faced. No other problems exist.
  3. Have teams write their ideas on easel pads labeled at the top with their limitation.
  4. If time allows (or for longer brainstorms), invite groups to select an additional obstacle when time expires.

Brainstorm Part 2: (approx. 10-20 minutes)

  1. Organize all the solutions the group has brainstormed by limitation and line the walls of your conference room or meeting space.
  2. Working as a large group, review the ideas and look for solutions that naturally compliment each other. You may also use the Forced Connections approach to combine solutions.
  3. Record linked ideas on an easel pad or mark with a shared symbol (star, plus sign, etc.) to indicate the relationship between the ideas.

Brainstorm Part 3: (approx. 20 minutes)

  1. Using the solutions selected in Round 2, challenge the group to further refine the ideas to satisfy additional limitations.
  2. Start with one of the selected solutions. Introduce limitations one at a time and identify changes that need to be made to overcome the new obstacle.
  3. Follow the same process for all selected concepts.


  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 makes big ideas infinitely more portable and permanent.


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