Brainstorming & starbursting techniques

Updated July 20, 2017

Faced with a problem or need a fresh idea? Starbursting and brainstorming techniques help to figure out answers or come up with new ideas. These techniques can be used for school work, like writing papers, or working out a project idea, as well as solving business or even life problems. It requires no more than a writing surface, a writing utensil and some quiet time to let the ideas simply flow.


Starbursting is a type of brainstorming, and can be a handy tool for helping you to make an assessment and consider the options available. To use the starbursting technique, you start out by drawing a six-sided star, then write the topic of the idea or problem in the middle and the words "who," "what," "where," "when," "why" and "how" on each point. You then address each word in the starburst.

Consider, for example, the word who. You might ask, "Who will work on this project?" or "Who will benefit from this idea?" Think about all the questions that might come up under each heading. There is no limit. Once all the questions that come to mind are written down, you can try to answer them until the topic has solidified into an actionable idea.

Round Robin Brainstorming

Brainstorming is best used when a new idea is needed, and working in a group can help generate more creative inspiration. Round robin brainstorming is a technique groups can use, but certain rules need to be followed when the team round robins, such as no criticising or debating the ideas as they come up. Everyone must remember that there are no stupid ideas and everyone needs to feel free to express the ideas as they come, no matter how wild. Someone should write down or record all ideas, not leaving any out. With this technique, it's all right to build on someone else's idea, too, expanding or changing it to come up with a different version.

Brainstorming Reversal

With reversal brainstorming, you take a potential problem, such as "How can we satisfy our customers?" and change it to "How can we dissatisfy our customers?" Asking the reverse questions is another way to look at a difficult problem and identify solutions by thinking up the opposite effects of what you really want. Once you ask the question, "How can we dissatisfy customers," you would make a list of things that are often done that cause dissatisfaction. If long lines or waiting to be served, for example, is most often what customers complain about, you would then figure out what causes this to happen, then reverse it. What would need to be done to keep the lines shorter? Potential solutions should start becoming clear.

Free-form Brainstorming

With free-form brainstorming, the topic first needs to be discussed and made clear among any brainstorming participants. For example, you might need a new slogan or selling pitch for a shoe. Once everyone understands the who and why, you should allow a few minutes of silence so everyone can start generating ideas. You then can begin writing down all the ideas that come out, continuing until there has been several minutes of silence with no new idea being presented. When several ideas have been generated, the group can begin to critique and debate all the ideas until it is narrowed down to the best idea.

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About the Author

Jackie Castle has been writing stories and devotions since 1998 and has contributed to the Focus on the Family magazine. Castle holds a Bachelor of Science in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. She also holds a teaching certification.