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Brainstorming Print

Brainstorming is a method of ideas generation that encourages all participants to get involved and to contribute as many ideas as possible in a short time.

It is the ultimate group participation exercise. Results are based on group member's experiences and imagination. It encourages out-of-the-box thinking and the creation of new ideas out of other participant's contributions.

There are many ways to conduct a brainstorming session. For best results it is recommended to invite an external facilitator to control the session. Somebody not directly involved with the subject under discussion and preferably with previous experience and good people management skills.

It is important that brainstorming takes place in a relaxed, stress-free environment. Keep conversation light.

Maybe try some simple brain-flexing exercises to begin with:

  • 20 uses for a house-brick in one minute
  • List the member states of the European Union
  • Name 5 songs recorded by the Beach Boys, the Beatles
  • Whatever happened to...?


Ideas Generation Method 1

  • The facilitator writes the topic (its not a problem yet!) on a whiteboard or flipchart, so that everybody can see it.
  • Everybody takes turns to contribute an idea
  • Contribute only one idea at a time
  • Wait for your turn before contributing another idea
  • Miss a turn if you want to
  • Do not explain
  • Do not criticize
  • Improve on other's contributions by contributing another idea
  • Gather as many ideas as possible
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • The facilititor writes all ideas as they are offered onto whiteboard in full view of all participants
  • When all the team members are exhausted, close the idea generating session.


Idea Generation Method 2

  • The facilitator writes the topic (its not a problem yet!) on a whiteboard or flipchart, so that everybody can see it
  • Each participant is given a wad of post-it notes
  • Individually write down one idea on each post-it note
  • Get up, walk around
  • Stick each post-it note with idea on the whiteboard as soon as it is written
  • Read the other post-it notes
  • Generate other ideas and post them
  • When all team members are exhuasted, close the session.


Idea Generation Method 3

  • Best restricted for use by the 'right-brained' amongst us
  • The facilitator writes the topic (its not a problem yet!) on a whiteboard or flipchart, so that everybody can see it
  • Free for all discussion
  • Fast-paced
  • More than one person recording all ideas
  • No explanations
  • No criticisms
  • When the noise level declines, close the session


Clarification Session

  • Take a short break after the ideas generation session
  • All team members take time and read all the ideas
  • The ideas are clarified by the the originator and the team
  • the ideas are discussed and maybe improved upon
  • Similar ideas or themes are grouped together using an Affinity Diagram
  • Results of the session are documented

The facilitator then closes the session, thanks everybody for their participation and maybe needs to spend some time collecting the left-over pizza crusts and half-filled cans of cola.

Jeb Riordan (c) 2008


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