Why use brainstorm cards?
Before we look at the value of brainstorm cards, let's get on the same page about what brainstorming is. A term cited at any opportunity, there are many interpretations about what a brainstorm is. Our take is that it's a way to collaboratively generate a large quantity of ideas.
While we can all come up with a handful of random ideas at any time, there is an art to brainstorming and prompting people to ideate.
Here's the thing why brainstorm cards work: They bring limitations.
The thought contradiction; everything is possible
You can't just say "generate!" to a group of people, they will get stuck with this freedom where anything is possible. It's like an overload to your brain and you can't decide what thought you should pick up first. Needless to say, you don't want this to happen in your brainstorm, because the whole goal of a brainstorm is to generate ideas and not to get stuck in your head.
Prompts probe unexpected ideas
When we put forward ideas freely, we often put forward ideas that already exist in our minds. To generate new ideas that people didn't have before, it helps to direct their thinking towards a specific and small scope.
Comfortable to make mistakes and shout silly stuff
The limitations also promote openness. Participants will know it's unreasonable to expect brilliant ideas right away responding to such specific prompts, it lowers the threshold and will make them feel more comfortable to share whatever ideas pop into their minds.
How to use brainstorm cards?
So cards can be a very useful tool if you apply them in your brainstorm. If you've ever heard of the term lateral thinking by Edward de Bono, you might recognize this technique. Edward knew that not everyone was taught to think creatively at school so and found ways to help the brain make unexpected connections between factors.
What you could do is give the participants a combination of 2 (or more, but that requires some thinking) elements that they have to use for the generation of new ideas. If you use these cards you could give each participant a scenario and a tech card they have to use. A scenario could be that ___ and then you get a tech superpower to help you.
Give people a combination of 2 or more elements from which they have to generate new ideas. For example a technology (e.g. computer vision), and an SDG (e.g. quality education). Or a company (Nike), and a product (e.g. laptop). Here you can use a set of brainstorm cards per element.
At Bit, we often use one set of brainstorm cards (e.g. tech brainstorm cards) for one element, and use "How Might We" statements of the design challenge at hand (e.g. how might we support tenants in home maintenance?) as the other element.
A variation of force fits is to stick with one element (e.g. the HMW) and rotate the other one (e.g. technologies) over different rounds - thinking of them as lenses.
At Bit, we often assign a HMW statement per team/person and rotate the tech cards. Each time you get a new prompt, you ask "how might [computer vision][AR] [robotics][ NLP] support tenants in home maintenance?". Sometimes we also do it the other way around, holding the tech as a superpower and tackling different challenges with it.
Each round, you receive a new prompt, write down your ideas for 1/2 minutes, and pass your tech card to the left. Keep moving on to the next prompt until you end up with the one you started with.
You can also use brainstorm cards as conversation starters around a certain topic, rather than to generate a load of ideas on post-its.
For example with the tech brainstorm cards, you can talk with your team about how each of them are (or might be) relevant to the organization, the industry, the design challenge at hand, etc.
Without further ado, go to wearebit.com/tech-cards to explore the deck.
We'd love to hear how it goes and the ideas you come up with!