What distinguishes a creative, productive, and fun brainstorming session from a waste of time and energy?

There are plenty of articles online that tackle the issue by offering endless advice—“ask the right questions,” “set constructive boundaries”—or enumerating a long list of apps. Okay, guilty as charged; even we’ve written one of those articles. As always though, we continue learning and sharing our thoughts so you can grow with us.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that

  1. you already know basically how to facilitate a brainstorming meeting, and
  2. you really, really don’t need any more “solutions” that will only further complicate your process.

Instead, you’re here because something isn’t working out quite right. Your brainstorming sessions seem to go well—participants are enthusiastic, and generate endless ideas—but your team, organization, or client isn’t seeing real change as a result. Days and weeks go by, until the last brainstorm becomes nothing more than a distant memory.

You may be left thinking: “Didn’t we have a brilliant plan of action? Weren’t we all excited to follow up on… what, exactly?”

If this sounds familiar, chances are your problem isn’t with motivation, or even facilitation methodology, but a lack of useful documentation. Think back to the meeting and consider how notes were taken. Perhaps, stuffed in a desk drawer somewhere, there’s a stack of notecards comprising everyone’s input. Maybe there’s a photo on someone’s phone of a whiteboard that details a bunch of loose concepts and overall strategic directions. Or maybe that board is still standing in front of your desk, with its text half-erased and faded, mocking you.

The fact is that translating the chaotic nature of ideation into a coherent execution plan is difficult and demoralizing. Most of us prefer to brainstorm in a tactile way, with markers and sticky notes, throwing out and rearranging ideas on the fly. Synthesizing that dynamic process into computer-ready document doesn’t come easily. Following a spirited, hours-long brainstorming session, you may be left with little more than feverish scribbles on scraps of paper, and no clue where to start.

Which is why more and more facilitators are discovering Cardsmith. Unlike other visual planning software, Cardsmith replicates the unstructured brilliance of real-time brainstorming in a digital environment. Our lightweight platform allows users to capture ideas as they happen, group concepts together, and see patterns emerge. Every member of your brainstorming group can create, comment on, and rearrange cards in a colorful, collaborative format designed to feel like sticky notes. And when the brainstorming is done, you’ll have easy to reference documentation of your ideas on a platform that encourages your brainstorm to gain structure and become actionable.

Check out this video, which shows how to use Cardsmith to collect freeform ideas, analyze them, and transform them into tasks within minutes: