Joint Idea Development and Brainstorming Meetings with the Catchball Method

Brainstorming sessions aren’t only about developing completely new ideas. Often, you already have some existing ideas or at least approaches that you want to develop further. For situations like these, there is a special creativity technique that focuses on the joint development of ideas: The so-called catchball method. 

Here’s how the catchball method works and how you can use it for brainstorming meetings: 

Idea Development with the Catchball Method

The catchball method works as follows: One participant begins and "throws" one of his ideas to the others. Another participant "catches" the idea and tries to improve it in some way. The modified idea is then given back to the group. Now it is the turn of another person to pick up the modified idea and develop it. You continue this process until none of the participants sees another way to improve the idea. 

For example: Gather 5 to 10 participants and make them stand in a circle. Hand the first participant a ball and let them explain their idea concerning the new mobile app design. If another participant had a similar idea, they can catch the ball and add to the idea. This goes on until none of the team members can’t add anything more to the idea.  

Advantages of the Catchball Method  

The catchball method is a very popular creativity technique because it gives all participants the opportunity to deal with an idea in detail and enables them to further develop good ideas. The whole team works together on a certain idea and everyone feels responsible for it. In the best-case scenario, this collective sense of responsibility can be maintained until the ideas have been implemented. 

Disadvantages of the Catchball Method 

The catchball method is a very playful creativity technique so it is possible that some participants do not take it seriously. These doubts usually disappear once the person concerned has taken part in a catchball session. After all, participants are often very positively surprised by the strong flow of ideas and collective creativity stimulated by this method.

Procedure of the Catchball Method

Before the Meeting

To use the catchball method, it is important to explain the topic of the meeting beforehand. You should also explicitly ask participants to think about the topic in advance. This way you can make sure that there are enough initial ideas and that everyone comes prepared with a clear opinion on the method and the subject. If people come unprepared, you won’t have enough ideas to start with and the meeting will fail. Motivation for conducting other catchball meetings will be pretty low after that as well. 

Beginning of the Meeting

At the beginning of the brainstorming meeting, briefly summarize the topic or problem you want to solve. Afterwards inform the participants that you would like to use the catchball method for the joint development of ideas and explain it briefly. 

Start of the Catchball Meeting

Now that you’ve established the ground rules and everybody is on the same page, start “tossing” ideas around. Someone has to take on the part of the moderator who can bring people back on topic if they wander off too far or if they go from constructive criticism to insulting each other. Try not to assess any ideas just yet but collect everything that comes up in order to really get ideas flowing. 

Post-Meeting Amendment

After the meeting send an overview of all original and modified ideas to all participants as quickly as possible. This way they can see the results written down and will be more motivated to use the catchball method next time. Some of the ideas will be developed further and those initial records can help people focus on the goal and see the progress they have made so far. Further catchball meetings can be used to develop relevant ideas even further or to work on creative ideas for implementation, sales or marketing.