The Ultimate Brainstorming Innovation Tool – Use the PAINStorming Template for Customer-Inspired Ideas

[This is a guest post from Brand ManageCamp 2018 speaker Soren Kaplan – originally published at]

Most brainstorming sessions fall far short of breakthrough innovation. PAINstorming uses pain points and insights to start the innovation process with what really matters to customers – so you get better ideas to fuel innovation.


Brainstorming is today’s no-brainer. Most leaders and organizations preach it and teach it. It’s about generating lots of ideas, deferring judgment and then – for savvy innovators – using some type of meaningful criteria to winnow down the laundry list.

Here’s the problem: We often don’t realize we’ve got great ideas for a misguided focus until it’s too late. A Fortune 500 client of mine once said, “We’re great at executing on bad ideas.” Most of us are absolutely awesome at coming up with creative solutions to the wrong problem. But as the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

What’s the solution? PAINstorming.

PAINstorming is the process of uncovering pain points to drive breakthrough innovation. Instead of jumping to solutions, PAINstorming uncovers the fundamental drivers of new opportunities. No more innovating around the fringes of the problem.

Here are the steps:

1. Person – who’s the specific person or customer you’re innovating for?

2. Activities – what are the everyday things they do, why, and to what ends?

3. Insights – what are the processes, tools, or activities that they unnecessarily do or have invented themselves to “work around” the way things are “supposed” to be done?

4. Needs – what are the biggest pain points that are the root causes of the customers’ problems, unmet needs, or desires? What are the workarounds, things that cause stress or concern, dissatisfaction, or anything else that’s responsible for their “pain”?

Here’s a simple template for plotting pain points: click these links to download PDF or MS Word versions.

Painstorming Brainstorming Template


With this, you’re ready to heal your customers’ pain. Jump back into brainstorming and generate options for solving individual or multiple pain points through new products, services, processes, and business models.

PAINstorming solves one of the biggest pain points in the innovation process itself – getting close to the customer so your ideas solve real needs earlier on in the innovation process.

Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award-winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an affiliated professor at USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, a former corporate executive, and a co-founder of UpBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.

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