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How To Brainstorm Like A Googler

Source | FastCompany : By VERONIQUE LAFARGUE

Here at Google, we don’t have a secret formula for innovation. But that doesn’t mean Googlers’ best ideas are ineffable mysteries. On the contrary, we’ve found they can be systematically coaxed into being and steadily improved upon. And so can yours.


Just about everyone can learn to brainstorm better. After all, it’s a process like any other. And the beauty of a process is that it can be taught, learned, and shared. We’ve distilled our own approach into a set of three basic principles—ideas we believe can be adapted and applied at pretty much any organization, regardless of size or industry.

The way many of us brainstorm often gives the whole experience a bad rap: We typically envision a brainstorming session as an unstructured scene where wild ideas are thrown around in an ad hoc way—where anything goes. But at Google, while we’ve learned that freestyle brainstorming is the basis of innovation, it doesn’t turn into substantive action without some structure.

That’s why we’ve created a linear process for brainstorming new ideas and turning them into actual products:

  1. Know the user
  2. Think 10x
  3. Prototype

If that looks simple, it is—but you have to execute each step the right way.


To solve a big question, you first have to focus on the user you’re solving it for—then everything else will follow. So we go out in the field and talk to people. We collect users’ stories, emotions, and ideas. We learn to get comfortable with silence. We watch, listen, and empathize. You can’t just understand your users’ needs—you need to actually relate to them.

For example, I recently visited our customers in Canada, Brazil, and India. By observing and talking with them, I realized that what we generically call “mobility” means very different things depending on where you are. In Canada, mobility means instant collaboration from your desk, the coffee shop, or your kitchen table. In Brazil, where users spend a lot of time in commute, a great interface and voice control underpin the concept of mobility. In India, where connectivity may be a challenge in some areas, a critical aspect of mobility is working offline.

Obviously, there’s no way we could’ve learned that without making the effort to find it out. And that’s something many brainstorming sessions get wrong right off the bat—they get everyone but the user into a room together to start throwing ideas around. But that’s actually Step 2, not Step 1.

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