Brainstorming is a great way to develop a large number of ideas from a group of people in a short period of time. It can provide valuable information for market development, tackling organisational problems and any kind of problem-solving or opportunity-seeking situations.
We’ve seen a lot of new developments with brainstorming recently (like nominal group technique, electronic brainstorming and buzz groups), but some principles never die and it would be good to reiterate best practice for this specific technique.
1) State the problem or objective clearly. Ensure everyone has a clear understanding of the purpose of the session.
2) Have everyone see it from every angle. Ask all to ask the question “How can we….?” or “How to…..?” in relation to the objective stated on the board or paper.
3) Generate ideas. Jot down the statements people come up with, with no judgements, rationale, questioning or justifications.
4) Generate more ideas. Call a quick break while everyone digests the ideas written down. Reflect and concentrate on maybe just a few ideas. Pursue other lines while you are reflecting. Bring the subconscious into play by expanding on what’s been said. Go for quantity at this point, not quality. Suggest more ideas from others’ ideas.
5) Choose a wild idea and see if more ideas can flow from it. That way, people’s creative juices start to flow.
6) Complete the session. Only stop when you and the team feel all ideas have dried up.
After the session, you then need to evaluate…
7) Start ranking or evaluating ideas. You could get the team to do this individually or together.
8 ) Sift and shortlist the feasible ideas. Look at introducing criteria, like cost, practicality, acceptability or time scales.
9) Apply these key criteria judgements. What will these ideas cost? Are they acceptable to management, stakeholders, clients, the market? Are they practical? How long will they take? How urgent are they? What will be the end results?
Throughout all the sessions, encourage an informal atmosphere, freedom of thought and freedom of movement, use a variety of techniques to generate further ideas and be sensitive to idea-generating-fatigue.
If you carry out a quality brainstorming session, your people will generate more and more ideas that will impact on the business and drive results, while improve interpersonal relationships and helping people to think more creatively.
Head of Training