Round robin brainstorming 101: guide, tips, and best practices
July 20, 2023
Learn how to use the round robin technique to run a quick brainstorming exercise. Use the round robin technique to help your team collaborate and ideate.
Brainstorms are meant to help you and your team develop the optimal solutions to work challenges. But a free-for-all, where everyone speaks up when they want, can stifle creativity. If you find that a select few people tend to monopolize every discussion, the round robin technique could help you hear more voices.
Round robin brainstorming is a powerful collaboration method that gives every participant a chance to contribute. And as more people express themselves and their unique ideas, your whole team benefits and grows.
What is round robin brainstorming?
Round robin is a collaborative brainstorming technique in which all team members participate in idea generation equally. This process helps teams build on each other’s thoughts and ideas to come up with better ones. Unlike some traditional approaches to brainstorming, round robin’s structured framework prevents interruptions, and fosters a judgment-free zone to express any idea, no matter how practical.
Benefits of round robin brainstorming
Not only can this freedom of expression improve your ideation, but it can also enhance the performance of your team. When employees feel like their opinion is valued, their overall well-being and performance improve. Whether your team works in a hybrid or remote environment, round robin brainstorming has many advantages:
Improves problem-solving: When everyone is pushed to think critically about a problem, you can generate more possible solutions — eventually, one of them will be a game-changer.
Fosters inclusivity: When team members present a diverse range of perspectives and fresh ideas, it can lead to more comprehensive proposals with fewer (or no) blind spots.
Increases engagement: When every member is obliged to participate, engagement increases both during the session and outside it. This is especially true in remote work scenarios, where speaking up might be more challenging.
Promotes innovation: If every participant feels they can share their ideas, you’ll get more unconventional ideas and creative possibilities and produce innovative solutions that may not have otherwise emerged.
Enhances team cohesion: When you have an open discussion in which every suggestion is taken seriously, it can help team members build rapport, strengthen relationships, and improve how they all work together.
Mitigates groupthink: When you no longer have just one or two people taking charge of a brainstorm, you minimize the risk of groupthink. Instead of everyone just going along with the most vocal and passionate participants, they get to hear varying and contradictory viewpoints.
Pairing round robin with design thinking
Round robins are especially beneficial for those who prioritize design thinking, a system that puts customer needs at the center of your brainstorm.
Since a round robin discussion is inherently more inclusive, the ideas you generate are more likely to emphasize empathy and a human-centered approach. This can be key to solving some of your biggest challenges and coming up with ingenious ways to help your business stand out and deliver results.
How to run a round robin brainstorming session
To host a round robin session, you’ll need to consider the size of your team. If you plan to involve a larger number of people (typically more than seven people), split everyone up into smaller groups. Some items you’ll need to prepare before meeting include:
A piece of paper/index cards or online collaboration platform where people can add their ideas
A clock or timer to set time limits for each person and keep the exercise moving
A team leader or third party who doesn’t take part in the brainstorming exercise but can act as a guide to keep everyone on track and on time
Why is a collaboration platform preferred? Brainstorming with an online platform enables your team to collaborate from anywhere, refer to the resource after the meeting, and easily share with cross-functional team members.
General steps for round robin brainstorming
Once you have these elements ready to go, you can create an outline of the steps for the brainstorming meeting. There are a few ways you can run round robins, but the high-level steps look like this:
If you have a larger group, split your team up and/or seat your smaller group around a table. If you’re in a remote or hybrid meeting, split your team up into virtual meeting rooms and share a link to your digital whiteboard or collaboration platform.
If you have multiple groups working on the same challenge, consider gamifying this experience and having each group compete against the others for the most creative ideas.
There are three round robin brainstorming techniques that use some version of the above steps. We’ll dive into the details of those next.
Divergent round robin (aka “Rip, Slap, Pass”)
Divergent round robin combines the round robin technique with divergent thinking, the process of collaboratively generating and exploring varying unconventional suggestions. This technique is useful if you want to be able to generate the most unusual ideas in the shortest amount of time.
In divergent round robins, you use a sticky notepad or virtual sticky notes. If you’re in person, place the sticky notepad in the middle of the table. If you’re remote, show your team members how to select a new sticky note from your online whiteboard.
Once you set a timer, the first person takes the sticky notepad, writes their idea on the first page, and slaps the sticky note in the middle of the table. Or, if you’re meeting remotely, drag it to the middle of the online whiteboard. Then it’s the next person’s turn to do the same thing, and they continue going around until time runs out. At the end, you have many ideas in front of you to discuss, weed out, and build on.
Iterative round robin (aka “Yes, and…)
In this round robin method, every participant receives their own paper or document to write on at the same time. During a set amount of time, each person writes down their proposed solutions to the challenge. They don’t talk or share their ideas with anyone yet.
After the time is up, each participant passes their ideas over to another person in the group. Then they elaborate on the idea they’ve been handed, hence the “Yes, and…” nickname for this method.
(It alludes to an improvisation technique in which improvisers accept their scene partner’s lines and add on to the story.)
Next, continue passing the original ideas around until each person has contributed to every suggestion. You’ll see that the idea goes from the seedling of a proposal to a more robust and comprehensive possible solution.
Refined round robin
This method of round robin is very similar to the iterative version; however, instead of adding on to the original ideas, the goal is to provide feedback and refine the idea as you go along. During this process, it’s important to explain that feedback should be specific, kind, and beneficial to the original idea creator. Remind everyone that it'll help make the idea stronger in the long run.
In the first pass around, members of the group will write about why the idea won't work.
In the next pass, each team member will refine the original idea based on that feedback.
You can continue this cycle as many times as you wish before going through and evaluating the results.
Find the round robin technique for you
One aspect that ties all of these group brainstorming methods together is the use of visual collaboration to increase efficiency. When you lay out your thoughts and opinions on a page — whether in person or online – you open up space to get creative with your team’s toughest problems. Structure helps speed up this creative process — and starting with a template helps get you up and running faster.
With Mural’s round robin brainstorming template, you can help your team diminish overbearing opinions and uncover innovative resolutions quickly. This framework invites users to lay it all out there, take equal hold of the reins, and come up with the next big ideas that’ll drive your business forward.
Interested in more brainstorming techniques? Check out these resources to conduct better brainstorms:
Mural is the visual work platform for all kinds of teams to do faster, better work together – from anywhere. Team members get aligned faster with templates, prompts, and proven methods that guide them to quickly solve any problem. They can gather their ideas and feedback in one spot to see the big picture of any project and act decisively.
That’s what happens when you change not just where, but how you work.