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Better Brainstorming with a List of 100


As students, we’re constantly brainstorming. Paper topics. Key terms. Cool costumes for parties. You know what I mean.

For me, my first idea is rarely my best one. I come up with something atrociously awful, and have to just hope someone tells me it’s a terrible idea. Eventually, after tons of failures, I often happen upon something better.

Even still, I don’t always come up with the best idea. I find that I frequently get about a B+ idea, and then settle with that. It would take too much effort to get the best one. The best idea might be out there, but I sometimes need an extra push to find it.

One great extra push is what some people call “a List of 100“.

A List of 100 is exactly what it sounds like- a list of 100 ideas for a particular topic. No more, no less. You can’t stop until you hit 100 items on the list.

The point of such a high number is to force out ideas. I tend to write about 20, then hit a road block. Push through that, and keep writing. Ideas might be terrible, but that’s okay. Just keep writing ideas down, keep your brain flowing, and ideas will continue to come out.


Don’t stop until you hit 100. Odds are, somewhere between about 85-100, you’re going to hit on a goldmine. Often, just getting through that initial stage of awful ideas is all you need to start reeling off good ideas.

To pull this off, there are a couple of criteria: Write everything down, no matter how terrible. You can’t stop until you hit 100.

You also have to make the list in one sitting, either alone or in a group. There are no bad ideas. Don’t pass judgment on any idea until you hit 100.

I do this a lot for paper topics, blog posts, headlines for newspaper articles, etc. I find it to be a really useful tool for me, to get the best ideas onto paper, out from the doldrums of my brain where they’re hidden behind random quotes from The Office, sports statistics and knowledge of past iPhone models.

Next time you need an idea, regardless of what it’s for, try coming up with 100. I’ll bet one of those is the perfect one.

How do you brainstorm? Do you have any particular ways you coax good ideas out of yourself? Share them with us in the comments.

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18 Responses to “Better Brainstorming with a List of 100”

  1. cat says:

    Nice idea I need to try it, I wonder how much time it’ll take to make up 100 ideas.

  2. paulette says:

    Nice idea! You have creative picture for the the writing concept.

  3. It sounds pretty good, but it will cost a lot of time.
    But I’m think I have to do it a lot before I can accept that the most awfull ideas are also ideas ;)

  4. Garriett says:

    Good ideas, will try it.

  5. One would think that making a list of 100 items about a topic would release any topics of value that one could come up with, since 100 is such a high number to put out. Making the list would be a large task in itself, and then one would have quite a bit of material to work with. The last 10 or so items in the 100 would probably take the most time.

  6. Dicki says:

    I rarely use a brainstorm. My head is good thinking at rest.

  7. David Pierce says:


    Good points. You’re dead on that the idea does potentially take a long time, and it’s particularly geared toward group discussions and projects. I HAVE found, though, that doing it is incredibly useful if I’m in desperate need of a good idea.

    @TheDutchSchoolKid- You’ve hit on the hardest part of the idea. Coming across an obviously awful idea is a problem, and can definitely sidetrack you- if you let it. Just roll with it, write it down knowing no one else will ever see it, and let the ideas flow. And, for me, some ideas I think are bad end up being the best ones.


  8. Hi David, you have quite a interesting method of brainstorming. I usually think of thinks in 3s, and make a pyramid out ecg idea, then I find it easier making the final decision for some reason. I have been using this method since I can remember and it wasn’t even taught to me, It’s just natural.

  9. Tom says:

    interesting site it really learns me a lot.

  10. Tom says:

    thanks for the information i will apply that.

  11. cat says:

    Itried it for now I have only 36 ideas

  12. David Pierce says:

    @Cat- hey, 36 is a great start! 100 is an end goal, and definitely takes some practice. Did you come up with some good stuff?

  13. Love this article. I don’t know if it’s considered brainstorming but I try to find as many success stories related to my topic and then add my own twist.

  14. Dicki says:

    I think 100 is a conditional quantity of ideas, sometimes 36 or even less born on the spot at a great rate would be enough to get a good or the best result.

  15. James says:

    I think I will try this next time I think on an idea!

  16. Great idea. I think it is difficult 100 unique idea but i will try it.

  17. Steven Lance says:

    jotting down the ideas on pieces of paper is one of the technique that my professor teach to us, i know know what is the real effect of it on my ideas to implement it. but i will try this. thank

    - Steven

  18. Flowers says:

    Thanks for very interesting blog! I’ve reached my knowledge!