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The Virtual Brainstorming that will Alter Your Students Thinking Forever

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Creative brainstorming technique to set the tone for a judgement-free exchange of ideas by Daniel Cape.

All creativity could be said to be the combining or adding on to previous ideas. The modern day phone is just the combination of a computer, a phone, and about 100 other ideas. Wheels on luggage is a fairly new idea that combined 2 common ideas. It's that simple. Johannes Gutenberg combined the coin punch with the wine press to create the printing press - one of the most influential innovations in history.

This activity can be used as quick Ice Breaker or as a lead in to a longer Problem Solver session. Pairs of participants will be asked to combine two random objects or concepts to create something new.

For this activity, facilitators should prepare a list of random concepts or objects. These can be anything - a baseball, a nail, a cactus, customer service, employee retention, a dog, a zebra, a glass, a skyscraper, etc. If you include concepts specific to your group's challenge or goal, like 'increasing 4th quarter profits', 'strategic planning' or 'new product', be sure to have an equal number of random objects that are unrelated to the challenge/goal. Additionally, be prepared to easily assign each participant one of these concepts or objects while video conferencing, either by creating a list ahead of time or by messaging each person their prompt


1. Introduce the activity concept as described in the "Preparation" section. Emphasize that Combining Ideas requires a safe environment for people to share wild and crazy ideas. There should be no judgement of ideas for this game. In fact, the more ridiculous the idea the better!

2. Say, "the goal of this activity is for you to think of ways to combine ideas. I will give you a prompt in a minute that will have a concept or object on it and assign you a partner. The two of you will have 3-5 minutes to come up with ways to combine the concept and object. Think of the similarities and opposites of what's written on your cards. Think of useless and silly ways to combine them. Your ideas don't have to be realistic."!

3. Assign participants their object or concept and randomly place them in breakout rooms with a partner.

4. Once 3-5 minutes has passed, return all pairs to the main room and discuss.

If your goal is for new people to get to know each other, a few minutes to Reflect may be all that's needed. If your goal is to generate new ideas for a future project, the Connect and Grow sections can guide your discussion.