Why do we emphasise sketching while brainstorming solutions?

Akshay Rao

Akshay Rao Principal Consultant

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Why do we emphasise sketching while brainstorming solutions?

Date: 06 July 2022

Whenever I run brainstorming or ideation sessions, I encourage everyone to be visual and draw their solutions. And I get lots of stares or mortified looks from a few people in the room. Often, people complain that they’re not the creative type or are terrible at drawing.

I have a three-year-old, and if you have kids, you would have noticed they communicate through drawings and are not afraid of how their drawings look. Why do we move away from this mindset as we grow up? Maybe we get conscious of what others think of our drawings and how they would judge us? Do our egos get in the way?

In brainstorming or ideation workshops, the quality of your drawing skills isn’t important. It’s the act of drawing, making things, and putting your thoughts on paper; it engages your right brain and opens your mind to access your creativity. It’s like a dormant muscle, and once you start using it, you’re right back at it – there’s zero learning curve.

If you’re struggling with drawing skills or getting started with brainstorming solutions, please take a look at this 30 circles activity. I came across this on the IDEO platform a decade ago when I got trained as a design thinking coach. It’s a short and sharp activity I run with some of my training participants before ideation workshops.

Please scroll to the bottom of this blog to download the activity sheet.

Instruction to the activity.

  • Print the activity sheet.
  • Set a timer for 3 minutes.
  • Turn as many of these blank circles into recognisable objects (e.g. a clock, a ball).
  • Now, go!

Are you done with the activity?

  • Did you create variations of a clock? Or ball?
  • How many circles did you fill?

When I ran this activity with my Fundamentals of Design Thinking training participants, I noticed a couple of peculiar things:

Building on each idea: I often see people start with a basic object and build on the basic ones to create more complex objects as they fill the circles. That shows that we shouldn’t wait for a game-changing idea to hit us. Start with the basic ones, and you’ll soon start building on them.

Variation of the same thing: There are often objects that are variations of the same thing, like a hand watch, wall clock, and an alarm clock. If you have a lot of such objects, it’s excellent, but in essence, you’ve only got one solution with three variations in this case.

Hence, it is imperative to have lots of ideas to choose from when brainstorming for solutions. Go for quantity over quality and balance them with distinct ideas. When you combine quantity and distinct ideas, you can generate many concepts to choose from.

I hope this activity is helpful to you before your next brainstorming/ideation session.

If you’re interested in building your capability to create innovative solutions at volume, reach out to me or look at our Fundamentals of Design Thinking course here

Assurity 30 Circles Activity Sheet

Click here to download the template.

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