That the students’ abilities to create ‘association chains’ are improved and that the design teams become better at generating new ideas and solutions.


The design teams each use one of the ideas/solutions from one of the other ideas developing techniques, e.g. Rapid Prototyping – 1,000 Ideas. The idea/solution is written on a piece of paper and placed at the center of the table. A mobile phone is set to record and the team starts to talk about how they can solve the challenge/further develop the idea.

The rules of Talking Waterfall:

  • No pauses in the speech flow.
  • The students are encouraged to interrupt each other and build on each other’s ideas.
  • The students are not allowed to say “no, but…” they can only say “yes, and…”

Talking Waterfall lasts seven minutes and is recorded on a voice recorder (e.g. mobile phone).

When time is up the design teams listen to the recordings. Every time a new idea pops up in a conversation, the recording is stopped and the idea is written down on a piece of A1 paper. This process continues until each team has listened through the entire conversation they have recorded. Hereafter, the design teams reflect on the ideas they have written down and choose the best ones.

Talking Waterfall can be repeated using one of the chosen ideas, which the students wish to dissect further.

Example: How do you avoid becoming sick from contact with the water when your basement is flooded and needs to be emptied out?

  • “You avoid going down into the basement – perhaps you have some sort of device you can lead down into the basement without having to go down there yourself...”
  • “Yes, or you put on some sort of waterproof suit for protection. The suit could be designed specifically for flooded areas…”
  • “Yes, and it could be inflatable, so you wouldn’t drown if the water rose very quickly…”
  • “Yes, and it could have different functions for communication… What if you didn’t have to go down into the basement at all, because there was some sort of system that kept the water out of the basement or automatically drained the basement…?”
  • “Yes, and all the stuff stored in the basement was waterproofed…”

Talking Waterfall is centered around the students spontaneously inspiring each other, which is favorable when you are developing ideas. The technique supports the students’ abilities to think unconventionally and bring spontaneous and unfiltered ideas to the table for the other students to feed off from. Therefore, it is important that the students understand how the technique works, and how they can use it when they need to generate ideas.


  • Preparation and setup.
  • Write down subject/idea to brainstorm about as a question. Remember that it is easier to get ideas for a solution when you formulate a question such as: “How can we protect the stuff we store in the basement in a flooding situation?”
  • Talking Waterfall, talking session.
  • Listen to the recording of the Talking Waterfall session and map out the ideas.
  • Possible repetition of new subject/idea.

Execution time
1 lesson.

Voice recorder (e.g. mobile phone), A1 paper and pens.

Each design team sits around a table. The subject or idea they are brainstorming about is written on an A1 paper at the center of the table.