Brainstorming is a group creativity technique that was designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution of a problem. Where possible, participants in the brainstorming process should come from as wide a range of disciplines as possible. This brings a broad range of experience to the session and helps to make it more creative.
There are four basic rules in brainstorming. These are intended to reduce the social inhibitions that occur in groups and therefore stimulate the generation of new ideas. The expected result is a dynamic synergy that will dramatically increase the creativity of the group.
- Focus on quantity: The assumption is that the greater the number of ideas generated, the greater the chance of producing a radical and effective solution.
- No criticism: By suspending judgment, one creates a supportive atmosphere where participants feel free to generate unusual ideas.
- Unusual ideas are welcome: To get a good and long list of ideas, unusual (and ‘stupid’) ideas are welcomed. They may open new ways of thinking and provide better solutions than regular ideas. They can be generated by looking from another perspective or setting aside assumptions.
- Combine and improve ideas: Good ideas can be combined to form a single very good idea. This approach is assumed to lead to better and more complete ideas than merely generating new ideas alone.
To run a group brainstorming session effectively, do the following:
- Appoint one person to note down ideas that come out of the session. A good way of doing this is to use a flip chart. This should be studied and evaluated after the brainstorming session.
- Define the problem you want solved clearly, and lay out any criteria to be met;
- Keep the session focused on the problem;
- Ensure that no-one criticises or evaluates ideas during the session.
- Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among members of the group. Try to get everyone to contribute and develop ideas, including the quietest members of the group;
- Let people have fun brainstorming. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as possible, from solidly practical ones to wildly impractical ones. Welcome creativity;
- Ensure that no train of thought is followed for too long;
- Encourage people to develop other people's ideas, or to use other ideas to create new ones;
Brainstorming is a great way of generating radical ideas. During the brainstorming process there is no criticism of ideas, as free rein is given to people's creativity (criticism and judgment cramp creativity.)
This often makes group brainstorming sessions enjoyable experiences, which are great for bringing team members together.