Brainstorming Techniques for Category, Account, & NPD Managers

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Improve Your Brainstorming Sessions

Wikipedia states that ‘brainstorming’ is a ‘group creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members.’ In the UK Grocery Industry, our clients find our facilitating of their brainstorming sessions useful because they have someone that is experienced in facilitation and someone that brings a toolbox of brainstorming techniques. You can try yourself using some of our brainstorming techniques below.

9 Popular Techniques 

Here are 9 of those most popular brainstorming techniques that Category Managers, Account Managers, and NPD Managers found particularly useful. We supported them to apply these brainstorming techniques so that they could identify new product concepts, search for new business opportunities, and look for new category insights.

#1 Mathstorming

Particularly effective for New Product Development (NPD). This is a brainstorming technique that our clients like because it is a simple way of looking to improve current products to find new ones.

Place a selection of products on the table, both from your category and other categories. Write on the flip chart these 4 maths symbols below. Ask the group to capture each idea on a post-it note. Challenge the group to consider what they would add to, take away from, divide, and multiply, to get to a new product.

For example, you could add omega 3 to fish fingers, take-away salt from bread, divide a pizza in half, and multiply 4 burgers into 8 burgers.

4 mathematical symbols the plus, divide, subtraction and multiplication
This simple math technique can help with product improvement or generation

#2 Telestorming

Telestorming is a play on the word ‘teleporting’. The group is challenged to consider an alternative geographic perspective. For example, if they were living in a New York apartment as a stockbroker, or in Spain as a Mum of 4, or as a single Father living on benefits in Central London. Then ask the group to pair up with a partner. After this, they are to talk through their lifestyle and how they would use, or not use, and why they would use their category products.

#3 Peoplestorming

Stepping into someone else’s shoes can help us gain perspective. Peoplestorming is about choosing someone that we can relate to. For example, Richard Branson. By each person in the group assuming a personality, challenge the group from that person’s perspective. For example, what would that person like & not like about your products, how they would use your products, how would they change them, and what needs are not met by these products?

#4 Randomstorming

This brainstorming technique is a build on ‘random word’. ‘Random word’ is a brainstorming technique from Edward De Bono, the founder of lateral thinking. This technique takes some faith because it relies not on logic, but on the right brain arriving at solutions.

  • Step 1: Ask the group to be specific about a problem, e.g. ‘Finest burger category sales are declining’. Write this problem at the top of the flip chart.
  • Step 2: Ask the group to shout out a random word, e.g. ‘Penguin’. Any word. Put this at the top of the flip chart, below the problem that you identified in Step 1.
  • Step 3: Ask the group to shout out 10 attributes of the random word. For our example of ‘penguin’, this might be ‘swim’, ‘flippers’, ‘fish’, etc. List these words below the random word at the top of the flip chart.
  • Step 4: Starting with the first attribute, challenge the group to keep the problem in their head and then consider ‘swim’, and how would you solve this problem? Then write on the flip chart next to swim the answers that they shout out. Do not assess each answer. Just capture. Repeat for each of the other 9 attributes, e.g. ‘flippers’, ‘fish’, etc.
  • Step 5: Ask the group for interesting solutions and circle them. There are probably 3.
  • Step 6: Explore with the group each of the 3 interesting solutions.
  • Step 7: Invite someone to own each of these 3 interesting solutions and to take them further after the meeting.

#5 Superstorming

Share your favourite childhood superhero and invite each person to do the same by drawing their superhero. Each person then shares their drawing, why they chose them, and the superpower of their superhero.

Now challenge the group to consider, using their superpower, how they would improve the category/product by using their superpower. Then, how would that translate into product ideas in the ‘real world’.

#6 Similarstorming

This brainstorming technique aims to find parallels with other challenges that individuals in the group have overcome. Identify the problem, or top 3 problems, that the group are trying to resolve, and write them on the flip chart. Invite each individual to share one story of a similar problem they encountered. Then encourage the group to build on those stories. Capture potential solutions on the flip chart and assess them once everyone has told their story.

#7 Reversestorming

World War Z
The 10th man principle


Reversestorming is a brainstorming technique that is about doing the opposite of what everyone would do. In the Zombie film with Brad Pitt, ‘World War Z‘, Brad meets a man from the Israeli government called Jurgen Warmbrunn. He shares with Brad the ‘10th Man Principle‘. The principle is that if everyone thought that zombies and the apocalypse were unlikely then Jurgen had to think that it would happen. His thinking, in the film, led him to motivate the government to build the Israeli walls, which kept out the zombies (For a time anyway!). This technique is similar. It is designed to get the group to think differently.

Ask the group what would normally be done to solve this problem. Then, what is the opposite? Capture 10 opposites and identify up to 3, with the group, that are worth exploring. Then explore each of the 3 to assess which ones might be viable to follow up after the meeting.

#8 Timestorming

Ask each pair of people to identify a time that they would like to explore, either in the past or in the future. For example, Victorian times, or the year 2050. Then challenge them to consider using their products at that time. What new ideas come to mind? Ask them to consider the shopper, the preparer, and the eater.

#9 Rolestorming

Ask each individual in the group to write down another role that they want to consider. This could be ‘their Manager’, ‘their Mum’, ‘their parent’, ‘their old school teacher’, ‘best friend’, ‘enemy’, etc. Then challenge them to consider how they would use the products, or what they would think of the products, or how they would improve them.

Action: For even more useful content on category management , check out our ultimate guide on Category Management.

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