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Don’t Forget the True Purpose of Brainstorming

Nov 12, 2020
(updated: Feb 14, 2023)
Max 5 min read

We all have our own creative processes that work for us. After all, that’s why many of us became freelancers in the first place: having freedom to work the way we want. Brainstorming, though, is a strategy almost all of us use from time to time.

A brainstorming session can be a perfect way to get your mind on the right track and kick off a new project. Still, it’s easy to get swept up in tossing out as many ideas as possible and forget the ultimate reason you’re having the session. Let’s get back to basics by answering the critical question, “what is the main purpose of brainstorming?”

What is the main purpose of brainstorming?

On the surface, it looks like the goal of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible. For the underlying purpose, though, think bigger. The true purpose of brainstorming is to push your project forward.

Developing ideas is terrific, but that can’t be the end of it. You need to translate those ideas into a practical, actionable plan that will achieve everything your project needs. Many brainstorming sessions miss that bridge from ideas to action.

With this overarching purpose in mind, let’s dig deeper into how you can make every brainstorming session work toward that goal.

Three components of a successful brainstorming session

For your brainstorming session to truly propel your project forward, there are three key components to have: idea generation, organization, and action planning.

Idea generation

Idea generation is the crux of brainstorming: setting your mind free to dream up as many ideas as possible. You want high-quality ideas, yes, but sometimes quantity leaves to quality, so let your mind wander even if you don’t expect it to lead somewhere productive.


As you develop your ideas, you need a productive and helpful way to organize them. If you just end up with a long list of thoughts and words, it’ll be overwhelming and chances are that you’ll never take time to figure out how those ideas could fit into your project.

Find an organizational structure that makes sense for your project. It might be a series of columns, each for a separate part of your project. It might be a mind map or a visual layout of your project with ideas for each piece. Whatever it is, you want it to be useful even if you’re looking at it months down the line.

Action planning

Generating fantastic ideas won’t help your project if you simply move on with your project and don’t translate your ideas into real action. To make sure your time doesn’t go to waste, end every brainstorming session with a plan of action items to move forward.

That might mean creating action items for each feature or idea you want to incorporate in your project and organizing them in your task planner. It might mean scheduling a follow-up brainstorming session. You need to walk away knowing what your next step will be and when it will happen.

Tips for maintaining the true purpose of brainstorming

I’ll be honest: keeping your eye on the true long-term purpose of brainstorming can take practice. Many of us have a bad habit of thinking brainstorming means throwing out as many ideas as possible and nothing more. If you’re having trouble making your sessions productive for your project’s actual needs, try these tips.

Use ongoing organizational methods

Some people spend their brainstorm jotting down their ideas in a list and then take time to organize them later. To each their own, but it’s often helpful to write them down in an organized structure in the first place.

For instance, if you’re generating ideas for a website’s homepage, have a tentative drawing of the layout. Write notes for each section individually.

Not only does this help you keep the ideas straight when you look back, but it can help your mind follow a thread and form a solid view of each feature rather than jumping around randomly.

Block your time

You might’ve set aside an hour for brainstorming, but block time within that session too. At a bare minimum, set a time at the end for turning your ideas into action items.

If you’re brainstorming for a large project, it helps to break up your time even more. As a graphic designer brainstorming for a branding project, you might dedicate fifteen minutes to brainstorming brand colors, fifteen minutes for visual themes, fifteen minutes for fonts, and so on.

Get everyone on the same page

Group brainstorming sessions are a terrific way to jumpstart a group project and get as many strong ideas as possible. Before you begin, though, have a chat to get everyone on the same page.

Talk about the ultimate purpose of brainstorming and make sure everyone’s mind is on the project as a whole, not pulling as many ideas as possible and walking away. Agree as a group on what you’ll accomplish during each session.

Keeping your eye on the prize

Before every brainstorming session, ask yourself again: what is the main purpose of brainstorming? If you can keep your eye on the end goal and use the tips above, you can put your valuable time to good use in every session

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