April 21, 2022

Starbursting: Get to Know the Question-Based Brainstorming Method

Diagrams for Businesses
Project Management

New projects are exciting. 

We’ve all been there: the ideas are fresh, your team is eager to get started, and everyone is feeling inspired. 

The problem with a new project is sometimes teams struggle when there is a lack of cohesive vision. How can you make sure you have the framework you need to create a plan that will work effectively? 

That’s where starbursting comes in: it’s the brainstorming method that helps teams prepare to start something new by asking questions.

Keep reading to learn about starbursting and what it can do for your team, or jump ahead to any of the following sections:

💡 Ready to jump into a brainstorming session now? Start working from our online template with just a few clicks!


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Introduction to Starbursting

What is Starbursting? 

Starbursting is a simple, iterative brainstorming method in which a team comes up with a list of questions that need to be answered when evaluating a new idea.

The whole team can (and should!) participate! The goal is to compile a list of questions all related to one concept or idea. These questions will encourage your team to think deeply and strategically about the topic that’s being discussed.

Starbursting both inspires and thrives on creativity. As you and your teammates start to ask questions, those questions will spark other questions that will get more detailed the further you dive into brainstorming. Before you know it, you’ll have a comprehensive list of questions with varying levels of specificity. 

Why is this helpful? Aren’t the answers to those questions what you really need? 

Yes, and you should take time after you’re done coming up with questions to start talking through some of the answers. But this exercise gives your team the space to think of those questions that might not otherwise be asked or considered. It also gives you a clearer vision for how you’re going to think about the project or idea throughout the rest of the planning stage.

However, a brainstorming session on its own is not a replacement for other planning tools. After starbursting, you will need to take the questions you’ve come up with together and use them to create a specific plan with tasks, goals, and a timeline.

Your answers to these questions can also become important inputs for your team. There are other tools and business frameworks, such as product roadmaps or RACI charts, that you might use to translate the brainstorm-generated questions into a detailed plan.

When Should You Use It? 

Starbursting works best as a brainstorming exercise when your team is approaching something new, whether that’s a product, service, or feature idea.

It allows you and your team to approach the idea with fresh eyes and think through all the problems that will need to be solved and the issues that may arise throughout the project. Then, you’ll be more prepared to create a plan. 

Starbursting can also be used for other situations beyond just a new product, feature, or service. It can also be used to evaluate concepts, such as different kinds of customers and their needs. You might do this to help you complete UX-centric exercises like story mapping, empathy mapping, or customer journey mapping.

You can even use this method to examine the direction of a company at a high level, potentially in conjunction with other, more detailed and strategic planning exercises such as value chain analysis

Ultimately, starbursting is most effective and commonly used at the beginning of a new project, but it is a versatile exercise that can be applied in many situations. 

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Get Started with a Starbursting Template

You can easily use pen and paper or a whiteboard for a brainstorming session, but in today’s business landscape, it’s becoming more and more common for teams to work in a hybrid environment. Because of this, it might not be possible to gather everyone in person to do a whiteboard-based brainstorming session.

For your teams that are spread out, there are plenty of online tools and collaboration software you can use to hold a brainstorming session, including Gliffy. You can launch our template now to get the ideas flowing, or keep reading to learn more about how to have an effective starbursting session with your team.

Template for the starbursting brainstorming technique

Click here to launch template >> 

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How to Brainstorm With the Starbursting Method 

Before the Brainstorming Session

There are a couple things you will need to do before you get started. First, determine the medium you will use to record everyone’s questions. This can be pen and paper, a whiteboard, or an online diagramming tool. 

The second thing you will need to do before starting your starbursting session is designate a facilitator.

It’s important to have someone responsible for moderating the discussion so it doesn’t get derailed, whether that’s by asking irrelevant questions or dwelling on unlikely hypotheticals.

The facilitator should also be responsible for making sure everyone has a voice and is able to contribute to the conversation equally. 

Third, decide how much time you’ll take for this exercise. It can be as long as you want, but should at least be long enough to give people plenty of time to think of questions, and then some time after that to discuss those questions. Once you have a set time, a method of recording, and a facilitator, you’re ready to begin.

During the Brainstorming Session

Start with the idea you’re going to discuss, and put that in the center of the star. Then, fill in each point of the star with one of the following categories: who, what, when, where, why, and how. This is how you will categorize the questions your team asks.  

Now it’s time to brainstorm! Start discussing the questions you come up with and record them outside the points of the star next to the category each question applies to. With Gliffy, it's easy for everyone on the team to participate — just drag and drop sticky notes at each point of the star to record your ideas.

Here are a few examples or themes of questions that might come up for each category. You’ll want to think of as many questions as possible, and your questions should continue getting more specific to your project as you keep going. 

  • Who: Any questions that relate to the “who” of the project, such as who will complete certain tasks or who your target customer will be.
  • What: Any questions that relate to the “what” of the project, such as what features will be included in the product.
  • When: Any questions related to the “when” of the project, such as the ideal release date and when specific tasks will have to be completed in relation to the release.
  • Where: Any questions related to the “where” of the project, such as where it will be released and where you will market it.
  • Why: Any questions related to the “why” of the project, such as why your customer needs this product and why it fits into your company’s goals.
  • How: Any questions related to the “how” of the project, such as how you’ll communicate information to customers and how each task of the project will be completed.

Come up with as many questions as possible! The limit doesn’t exist. The more the better, as long as they’re not straying from the main topic. 

Once you have a solid list of questions, you can start to go through them as a group and make notes of some quick answers and ideas. If you can’t answer every question right now, or the answer might change as you continue the planning process, that’s fine. The point of the exercise is just to get you thinking about these important details you’ll need to consider.

After the Brainstorming Session

The next step is to use the vision you’ve defined with your questions to make a detailed and effective roadmap for your new project. This is where a project management tool like monday.com can help; try their free project roadmap template to get started fast >> 

If you're struggling with project planning and need some help turning your ideas into action, you could try making an affinity diagram with your insights from the brainstorming session to help with organization and direction.

You will also want to share the output of your brainstorm with your team so they can see it as they help you plan. If you did your starbursting session using Gliffy, everyone will already have access to what you’ve created!

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Try Starbursting With Your Team

With Gliffy, making your starbursting diagram is as easy as adding your questions into our template, or dragging and dropping shapes to create your own. You can even get started with a free trial. 

Launch Gliffy today, and you can collaborate at the speed of your ideas and ask the questions you’ll need to answer to make your next project a success. 

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