Brainstorming is a great way to generate ideas and creative solutions to problems. However, there are some clear rules to follow to ensure your brainstorming session is effective.
The Rules and Outcome of Brainstorming
The definition of a brainstorming session is ‘the generation of as many ideas as possible flowing freely from all members without inhibitions.’
- Generate quantities of ideas, not quality
- No criticism/evaluation allowed at this point. No idea is a bad idea; every suggestion gets documented
- Allow freewheeling: going off at tangents that may not mean anything to anyone else is fine. Sometimes the association of ideas can spark new ones
- No editing/interpretation: write it down as it’s said and check with the person who came up with the idea, that you have the correct meaning
- Build on existing ideas: sparking off each other’s ideas is the whole point of brainstorming
- Capture all ideas even if they seem similar to others – there may be subtle differences
- Speed is important – try not to pause to reflect
- Try to use words/short phrases, not complete sentences. Don’t get hung up on spelling and grammar
- Set a time limit and stick to it rigidly. Appoint someone time monitor if needed
- Record all information on flip-charts and display around the room so that everyone can see them
- It is up to the leader to ensure all rules are obeyed
- Evaluate each point raised. This should be done as a group. Encourage people not to be defensive about ideas they generated.
- Rule out ideas that are not useful. Ensure those who came up with them are not discouraged.
- Write out each useful idea clearly and concisely and ensure everyone agrees.
- Discuss and list potential benefits and drawbacks to each idea
- Select the best ideas. This could be from trying to gain a consensus within the group on the best ones, or you could decide to vote. Try not to limit yourself by saying you will only look at a certain number, like the top three. If you have several good ideas, then use them all!
- Make an action plan – how can you put them into action?
- Who needs to do what and by when, to make the idea into reality?