Thinking in Cycles: Expansive and Reductive Brainstorming Sessions

Brainstorming Sessions are awesome

If you ever feel uninspired and you think you really need to start from scratch to look at things from a different perspective, it’s probable that a good brainstorming session could help solve that problem.


What to know about brainstorming sessions

Before you actually do one, you need to get familiar with the two main types of thinking processes that exist.

  • Expansive thinking: Also known as “thinking outside of the box,” where you have no limitations and you’re free to propose any idea, no matter how crazy it sounds.
  • Deductive thinking: the most common type of thinking, where you take whatever has been brought up in the expansive thinking process and limit it and simplify it.

A great brainstorming session requires both processes in order to work. A great crazy idea probably can’t be translated directly into reality, but no awesome ideas ever came from thinking inside the box.


What to do in a brainstorming session

1. Preparing the session

  • Choose a project to work on and create a few briefings or proposals.
  • Gather together and split in groups of 3-4 persons maximum.
  • Divide in groups so each group is brainstorming about a different briefing.

2. Expansive thinking session

  • Choose a moderator – you can all take turns – who will take notes of all the ideas. Drawings are recommended! This person will also tell off anyone who’s acting reductively.
  • Go to somewhere you feel comfortable and begin to brainstorm the first idea.
  • After one person speaks, the others need to expand on that idea until you have nothing else to say.
  • Then, it’s another one’s turn and the process begins again.
  • Don’t forget to name all the ideas to be able to explain them later.

3. Reductive thinking session

  • Let the ideas from the brainstorming session rest for a few days.
  • Create a short list of 5 limitations that would measure an idea’s viability (for example: $1,000 budget, 1 week’s time, 10 person team, global reach, available technical resources).
  • Gather together again and work on another group’s idea
  • Try to be as reductive as possible and score every idea by using a Stargazer, measuring each variable based on how it adapts to it (for example, if you need $1,000,000 to make something happen, it will score really low).


  • Decide which ideas are the most viable and which ones aren’t. Make sure you note any ideas that might be worth saving because their limitations can be solved by using more reductive thinking.
  • Out of the chosen ones: adopt an idea which particularly interests you and create an MVP.

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