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Brainstorming is a common and well-known problem-solving technique. It involves the concept of lateral thinking, which relies on individuals to ideate without inhibition or judgment to produce a high quantity of ideas. The freedom allowed in brainstorming allows for original and creative views, ideas, and solutions to problems.
As you will see below, brainstorming has many variations and alternate techniques. However, the three core aspects of brainstorming are as follows:
- Framing – Framing provides an objective for your ideation and limits the scope of your brainstorming. It also makes certain that everyone involved in the brainstorming session has a common understanding of the goal. You may choose to brainstorm around a particular industry, product, problem, or customer need or want. In any case, framing will provide context for your ideation.
- Facilitation – To facilitate means to make an action or process easier or simpler. In this case, someone involved in the brainstorming session should facilitate the event. The role of the facilitator is to make certain that the group feels comfortable with the objective and that the best practices rules are closely followed. The facilitator will need to encourage participation, help moderate the conversations, add and record other’s ideas, push the participants to dig deeper or look more thoroughly at an idea or sequence of ideas, and seek participant feedback. When choosing a mediator, it should be someone who has the ability to motivate the participation of others and has no personal stake in the outcome (such as a predisposition toward a given idea).
- Evaluation Criteria – In order to reduce a large number of ideas to a manageable lot, there must be some metric or evaluation criterion to judge the idea. Most facilitators will lead the group through collaborative voting, ranking, or otherwise allowing the members to show their preference for any ideas. This may be done openly or anonymously, verbally or in writing, and may allow for the treatment of multiple ideas at once or each idea individually. The technique used to evaluate the ideas should meet the personality of the group so that it promotes participation and input from all members.
Rules of Effective Brainstorming
- Generate Lots of Ideas – “Quantity leads to quality” in brainstorming. The greater the number of ideas, the higher the probability of coming up with an idea or combination of ideas that are valuable.
- Avoid Evaluating, Judging, or Criticizing Ideas – This creates an open environment where participants are not subject to the inhibitions listed below.
- Seek Diversity – Promote any sort of idea and encourage unique or unusual ideas. Diverse participation often leads to diverse ideas due to their unique perspectives in similar situations.
- Combine Ideas – Good ideas promote other good ideas. Sometimes ideas can be combined to create even stronger ideas.
Effect of Brainstorming
The effect of brainstorming is the production of more and, ultimately, higher quality ideas. Further, assuming the brainstorming individuals are or will be involved in the resulting ideas, brainstorming has the following effect on the brainstormers:
- Participants are more willing to participate fully in the session.
- Collective thought stimulates ideas in each individual.
- Individual thought is augmented and each member is able to make greater and often more valuable contributions.
- The diversity of members gives greater breadth to the ideas.
- Ideas are explored more thoroughly as a result of a variety of perspectives.
- Team members feel greater camaraderie offer greater support to a team generated idea (rather than an individual’s idea).