Brainstorming is a group technique for generating new, useful ideas and promoting creative thinking.
It can be used to help 1) define what project or problem to work on, 2) to diagnose problems , 3) remediate a project by coming up with possible solutions and to identify possible resistance to proposed solutions.
There are three roles for participants in a brainstorming session: leader, scribe and team member.
This person needs to be a good listener.
Before the session they need to refine a statement to help the others on the team focus on the reason for the brainstorming, and prepare the warm up activity.
During the session the leader will need to relay the ground rules of the session, and to orchestrate the session.
The Problem Statement
Ground Rules for Brainstorming
- needs to be specific enough to help participants focus on the intent of the session, but it must be open enough to allow innovative thinking.
- should not be bias so it favors a particular solution or excludes creative ideas.
- All ideas are welcome. There are no wrong answers. During brainstorming, no judgments should be made of ideas.
- Be creative in contributions. Change involves risk taking, it's important to be open to new, original ideas. Every point of view is valuable.
- Attempt to contribute a high quantity of ideas is a short amount of time.
- Participants should "hitch hike" on others' ideas.
This person needs to write down EVERY idea - clearly and where everyone in the group can see them. Check to be sure the materials provided will allow you to write so everyone in the group can clearly see what you are writing. The scribe could be the same person as the leader.
The number of participants should be no less than five, and no more than ten. The ideal group number is usually between six and seven. Sometimes it is helpful to include a person on the brainstorming team who has worked with the subject in the past.
Team members will follow this brainstorming procedure:
- Team members will make contributions in turn.
- Only one idea will be contributed each turn.
- A member may decline to contribute during a particular round, but will be asked to contribute each round.
- Participants should not provide explanations for ideas during brainstorming. Doing so would both slow the process down, and allow premature evaluation of ideas.
Set the Stage
- If possible the group should know what the brainstorming session is about before the session begins. This will allow them to think about the session.
- Provide appropriate places and ways to record ideas. This could include: flip charts, chalk or white boards, Post-Its, or large monitored computers.
- Provide a mental and physical environment which allows for creativity. Putting out thing such as magazines, clay, books, water colors, slates, a kaleidoscope, or jacks.
Steps for the Leader on How to Brainstorm
- Introduce the Session.
Review the reason for the brainstorming session, discuss the ground rules, and the team member procedure to be used.
Provide a warm up activity (5 to 10 minutes) that helps the group get use to the excitement possible in a brainstorming session. This activity should be on a neutral subject that will encourage participants to be creative. The leader may want to end the warm up by having the members discuss what could be said about the ideas that would prevent brainstorming from being successful.
This is the creative part! Set a time limit of 20 to 25 minutes. Sometimes it is effective to call time and then allow 5 more minutes. Stop when there is still excitement, do not force the group to work. Guide the group to generate as many ideas as possible. All suggestions made must be noted by the scribe. The scribe should use the speaker's own words. If the speaker's idea is long, the leader may need to summarize it and verify with the originator if the summary is correct.
- Process the Ideas.
Review ideas for clarification, making sure everyone understands each item. Similar ideas should be combined and grouped. At this point you can eliminate duplicate ideas and remove ideas. Next the group should agree on the criteria for evaluation. This could include: time allotments, talents and skills of the group, and more.
- Establish a consensus if appropriate.
Have the group vote on ten ideas to consider, then have the group vote on five of the ideas and tally the results to get a priority of feelings of the group.
After refining ideas give each team member 100 points to allocate on the idea list. Team members can use their points however they wish.
Have team members pick the five ideas they favor. Then ideas with the most picks can be prioritized.
Ideas for Brainstorming
Students want an original design for a web page. What will the general "theme" of it be -- not the detailed look but rather, the overall look.