Workshop Exercises: Ideate

3-12-3 Brainstorm

Force fast and unprompted thinking as participants collect, combine, and present

Illustration of 3-12-3 Brainstorm
Run a 3-12-3 Brainstorm play

Alternative plays: Crazy Eights, Mind Mapping, SCAMPER

Follow-up plays: How Might We

Timing: Discovery

Origin: James Macanufo

Run time
20+ minutes

Group size

Why: The 'ticking clock' forces spontaneous, quick-fire decisions and does not allow for overthinking

When: Ideal when time is limited but a breadth of ideas is required

This workshop exercise is part of the Workshop Patterns printed card deck.

A collection of workshop exercises that will help you ditch dull meetings and facilitate with confidence. It will help you master the design process and have more productive time with your team. The card deck will be ready for purchase in the end of 2023 and is now undergoing rigorous testing.

Reserve your deck!

Instructions for running this play

  1. Frame problem. Articulate on the topic or challenge you want to explore. While How Might We is a great way to frame a challenge, finding just two words to describe the topic will leave better room to brainstorm product characteristics (step 2).
  2. Brainstorm product characteristics. Generate as many “nouns and verbs” related to the topic of the problem as possible. Write characteristics on sticky notes or index cards (one per note or card).
  3. Generate concepts. Divide the group into pairs, drawing three cards randomly from the pool of characteristics. With the cards as thought-starters, each pair now has 12 minutes to develop a concept to present back to the larger group. The more visual the presentation, the better. Rough sketches or prototypes will help keep the presentation short, yet comprehensible.
  4. Playback to the larger group. As pairs present their concept to the larger group, they may reveal the cards they drew and how it influenced their thinking. But, what is most critical is tight time keeping.
  5. Discussion. Let the entire group reflect on what was uncovered.

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