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Brainwalking is a classic brainstorm variant, which helps activate all participants and potentially enables lots of ideas. In the brainwalk each student or group writes a single idea on a flip-chart, which is placed on a wall. The other participants then visit the flip-charts and silently further develop the ideas or add new ones.

This way Brainwalking is based on the principle of cross-pollination by having the participants build upon each other’s ideas in a structured way, where you get to utilize all the knowledge and creative input of the participants in the room.

It can also be beneficial to use, when the participants do not feel creative or perhaps are a bit introvert, because the exercise encourages everyone to participate and have their ideas be heard.

In order to set a frame for the brainstorm use this method: How might we …?.



As a teacher / facilitator please avoid suggesting ideas or judging the ideas, because it should be the students themselves who generate the ideas, and the quality of the ideas should be tested outside the classroom with users and other relevant stakeholders.

  1. Have the students to reformulate their problem or project goal as a phrase starting with “How might we …”, e.g.: “How might we attract more visitors to our website?”
  2. The students are to now choose the best “How might we …” phrase.
  3. Then present the brainstorming rules (Source:, Stanford University):
    • Defer Judgement – Don’t judge your own ideas or those of other´s
    • Go for volume – 100 better than 10
    • One conversation at a time – focus
    • Encourage wild ideas – the crazier the better
    • Build on the ideas of others – leverage perspectives
    • Stay on topic – stick to the “how” problem
    • Be visual – communicate your ideas for teammates by sketching
  4. Provide a flip-chart sheet to each participant or group. Instruct the participants to write clearly to avoid confusion.
  5. Taking turns, have each participant contribute one idea that they wish for the other participants to relate to and, where possible, to build upon.
  6. Have the participants circulate to the right past each flip chart and build upon and develop new ideas based upon the flipchart’s idea/content. The participants may write words, draw symbols or  drawings. Use approx. 1 minute per flip chart. Remember: In this part of the brainwalk there is no talking.
  7. Keep the students circulating until each paper includes 6 or more ideas.
  8. Then, ask the owner of the original idea to choose the best idea(s) and present it/them to the rest of the group or possibly in plenum.

Worth Considering

Some brainstorming fundamentals:

  • Individuals are better at generating ideas than groups (Girotra et al., 2009)
  • Groups are better at selecting the best ideas (Singh & Flemming, 2009), which can be related to “wisdom of the crowds” (Surowiecki, 2004)
  • Individuals are significantly worse at selecting their own creative ideas (Faure, 2004; Putnam & Paulus, in press; Rietzschel, Nijstad & Stroebe, 2006)

You can find inspiration and references to the theory behind the creative processes and techniques in this literature list.


You will need large pieces of paper (ideally flip-charts), markers and sticky notes (optional).


De Bono, E. (1971). The use of lateral thinking. Jonathan Cape.
Osborn, A. F. (1953). Applied imagination.

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