Do a Brainstorm Session to Make (or Prepare for) Major Decisions

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Brainstorming > Best Practices > Do a Brainstorm Session to Make (or Prepare for) Major Decisions

Do a Brainstorm Session to Make (or Prepare for) Major Decisions
V SHRIDHAR, Consultant, India, Member
It is adviseable to conduct a branstorm session before any big project for an effective decision making. In my long years of industrial experience I have found it is useful and wise to do brainstorming before taking any major decision.
The members of the group should be from various functional areas, such as production, planning, purchase, maintenance, stores and safety. This helps in two ways:
1. All aspects are covered while a final decision is made,
2. It makes all the members duty bound to adhere to the decision.
Note that it is imperative that the person responsible for making the decision is answerable and will be held responsible for the final outcome.

Manager's Competence for Guide Brainstorming
Miftachu Rochman, Indonesia, Member
It's a challange for any project manager to motivate all participants and make them express their opinions. How can a manager build his competence to lead brainstorming sessions?

Manager's Competence in Guiding Brainstorming
Jamil Adil, Manager, Pakistan, Member
It is a real challenge.. Let me first amend to what Shiridhar has mentioned.
The project manager should be an excellent facilitator to ensure the right direction of brainstorming. It is often observed that the brainstorming sessions are diverted by the participants from the original agenda to various other discussions. This can be productive too, but will ultimately be destructive for the agenda of session. Hence this should be extremely discouraged.
The facilitator is playing a vital role here to keep all the participants aboard and heading towards the right direction while at the same time maintaining diversity and welcoming differences of opinion.
How can one build this competence: there are different ways to enhance it, but I am not sure one can really build it if one doesn't have the potential. I advise the following strategy to be taken:
* Draft the best decision
* Rethink
* Present the result in front of the forum (brainstorming session)
* Let all criticise it from all perspectives (devil's advocacy)
* Document
* Redraft the decision
Be ready.

Brainstorming for Decision Making
zahid Hussain, Management Consultant, Pakistan, Member
In my opinion, when you do a brainstorm to prepare for major decisions, the selection of the team for the brainstorming session is important.
The department representatives participating in the session must be carefully selected and they should be positive minded and committed. Some homework before the actual session can help to reach good results.

Brainstorming and the Requiring Environment
Nick Anderson, Business Consultant, United States, Member
In my experience, for brainstorming to lead to ideas that people are committed to only happens when people are on the same page.
Apart from the skill required, there is the expectations set around such activities. The crux is that people build on other's ideas to help bring a colleague's idea to fruition. This can only happen if the requiring environment is set.
The requiring environment is a set of aligned change expectations between leaders and each participant.
These expectations flow in two directions. The first are the leader’s expectations for each person in terms of activities and behaviors that they are to stop, start and continue doing. The reciprocal being the expectations people have of their leaders.
When these are agreed, the requiring environment’s foundation is set.
Change managers then build accountabilities, performance measurement and management as well as rewards schemes to ensure the expectations of both leaders and their people are met.

Open Forum may present Better Options
Luciano Santini, Coach, United States, Member
I believe that before making the final choice on a project all those involved need to sit and listen to all options. This will give an open forum and perhaps better options will exist. If none appear then move forward. If others appear, discuss and make the best decision. This will also create teamwork and a feeling of accomplishment all around.

Brainstorming and Leadership
V SHRIDHAR, Consultant, India, Member
Brainstorming, as everyone has agreed is a means to take right decision for successful completion of a project. Many a time there is no choice for selecting members for brainstorming. One has to put up with the people around, those who have to be present and cannot be replaced!
In such situations, as per my long experience, a leader emerges from the group. He understands the situation and pulls out unscathed by diverting the subject in favour of the staunch believer and finally forces the 'staunch 'believer to follow the path required.
The leader, apart from diverting, has to be bold enough to take greater responsibilities, and has to be practical in the chosen approach. It should be feasible and not imaginary.

Brainstorming Requires Neutral Moderator
Prabhakaran, Manager, India, Member
Yes. Brain storming is effective tool for decsion making. But to avoid biased conclusion, a neutral moderator has to head the session.

Brainstorming Towards Decision Making
Leodegardo M. Pruna, Professor, Philippines, Member
@Miftachu Rochman: easy, build up trust, respect and transparency. These take time and would need much understanding on the part of manager/leader.

Brainstorming not a Decision Making Tool
R.S. MATHUR, Teacher, India, Member
@V Shridhar: I disagree on braistorming being a decision making tool. In fact it is essentially an excercise to generate as many ideas/solutions as possible by having a group of hetrogenous participants and a highly capable facilitator. Period.
Evaluating and filtering of generated ideas/solutions has to be done as the next step to enable optimal decision making. The brainstorming group need not be involved in decision making.
Perhaps, when you say brainstorming you really mean collective decision making.

Brainstorming is an Aid to Decision Making
S. M. Sapatnekar, Director, India, Member
Planning and executing a brainstorm is a moderator's challenge. It is a balancing act between keeping the participants focused on one issue at a time, without compromising on the freedom of speech of participants and encouraging expression of new ideas.
It is an aid to decision making - not a decision tool in itself. The moderator has to ensure that there are no value judgments and personal attacks during discussion. Experience sharing should be encouraged. Seniors should speak last. A well-defined agenda with objectives and time frame of each session yields best results.

Brainstorming and Decision Making
V SHRIDHAR, Consultant, India, Member
@R. S. Mathur : in my view brainstorming is only a tool aiding for the correct decision. Yes, the facilitator has to be prudent and capable of steering the team in the right direction for successful completion of the project.

Brainstorming; Generating Many Radical and Creative Ideas
Robert R. Zulu, Student (MBA), Zambia, Member
Brainstorming is a popular tool that helps you generate creative solutions to a problem.
It is particularly useful when you want to break out of stale, established patterns of thinking, so that you can develop new ways of looking at things. It also helps you overcome many of the issues that can make group problem-solving a sterile and unsatisfactory process.
Used with your team, it helps you bring the diverse experience of all team members into play during problem solving. This increases the richness of ideas explored, meaning that you can find better solutions to the problems you face.
It can also help you get buy in from team members for the solution chosen – after all, they were involved in developing it. What’s more, because brainstorming is fun, it helps team members bond with one-another as they solve problems in a positive, rewarding environment

Combining and Redesigning 2-3 Ideas...
Amanda Strydom
It is always important to listen to the "no's" that show up.
Personally I found that often a combination and redesign of 2-3 ideas becomes a solution that everyone can buy into. When re-creating from a couple of ideas, you get everyone's input and this is the key to getting people to own a decision. Ownership is very important for carrying during difficult moments within the change.
On one occasion, we did an exercise: I took the solution that everyone thought was rediculous and we pretended it was the only option... It is amazing how creativity unlocks potential and opportunity. This exercise created respect for every persons idea.
Often, there are many ways of achieving the same objective - so the results or the power of the change is not in the actual decision etc that was chosen, it is about the implementation of the change at the correct speed, implementing and re-enforcing and making sure that everyone is on board. It is no good deciding on what you want to do and you are all alone!

Brainstorming: a Habit
Mahesh Kumar, Manager, India, Member
Every efficient object we see around is a result of successive brainstorming sessions. We just need to keep doing it as a practice to keep improving our results. It should be therefore a habit.

Brain Storming is not a Sufficient Means of Making a Decision
Laxman Prasad Paudel, Manager, Nepal, Member
I agree brainstorming is an important tool for the decision maker. Because (s)he will gain fruitful ideas for his forthcoming decision and the decision made will be owned by the concerned participants.
But still this is not sufficient means of making a decision.

Brainstorming Tool - a Great Way of Solving Problems
VENKATESWARAN, Teacher, India, Member
Brainstorming is one of the effective tools to arrive at a decision for a problem and particularly when formidable changes are to be made involving a large number of people in the organization.
It must be done in free and informal environment and it is better when done in smaller groups having peers and no boss around. An external person with some knowledge of the organization will foot the bill.
Enough time should be given to make them think and then come prepared for this task. We must appreciate each idea, whether good or bad, so that the participants come out of their mind-block.

Brainstorming is a Democratic Method of Decision Making
muyiwa okesanya, Business Consultant, Nigeria, Member
I see brainstorming as a democratic method of problem solving and decision making process. Because all the stakeholders will be part of the process, therefore decisions reached at the end of such a forum can easily be enforced and the outcome will mostly be positive.

Do a Brainstorm Session to Make (or Prepare For) Major Decisions?
Victor Aguilan, Professor, Philippines, Member
Yes and no. There is a danger that the "brainstorming" session is just for show or a "fishing expedition". Employees know when their ideas are used by management without acknowledgement. It's not good management. Brainstorming should be empowering participants including employees.
Brainstorming without collective decision, ownership and implementation may generate the exact opposite which is paralysis or inaction.
And yes, of course a good brainstorming session requires preparation, a good facilitator and clear objectives.

Brainstorming: A Bouquet of Opinions Revealed...!
V SHRIDHAR, Consultant, India, Member
I am happy with all of these reactions on brainstorming. The result of 'brainstorming" can be seen here - at 12manage! It is unimaginable! So many thoughts and ideas. I am tempted to list them out:
- Brainstorming: an effective tool for decision making
- A democratic method for problem solving
- This all requires a good, calm, matured moderator at the steering wheel. I am sure everyone will agree with me
- Generates radical & creative ideas for problem solving
- Creates a sense of ownership.

Brainstorming: not Always Good D/M Tool
Ramji Sharma, PhD, Professor, Nepal, Member
Brainstorming is a good technique when you have to make a great decision in an area where you are not confident enough to make the decision on your own, or if you believe the implementation aspect is to be strengthened.
However, in a number of instances there is the risk that the agenda is diverted away from the desired goal when applying this approach of decision making.
Therefore, it is wise to be selective before forming a brainstorming cell when you use this approach to prepare for making a major decision.

Use People from Different Departments in Brainstorming Sessions
Shankar, Manager, India, Member
@Zahid Hussain: if we draw employees from all departments - which are not at all directly connected with the topic of brain storming - it is said that sometimes brilliant solutions will come up.

Brainstorming depends on Leadership
P.R.RAVINDRAN, Partner, India, Member
Everything depends on the type of leadership the organisation is enjoying (or suffering).
If the soil and climate are conducive and the farmer takes the trouble to feed the soil with water and nutrients and also carefully removes the weeds, the flowers will speak volumes!

What is Brainstorming and what it is Not
Tony Pagliaroli, Strategy Consultant, United States, Member
Over the years, the word 'brainstorming' has taken on many different meanings and uses; good and bad. Let me offer another perspective here. Generally, we know from psychology that our intellect has the ability among others for six mental operations including divergent, convergent and evaluation. (Structure of the Intellect; Guilford, 1950). This is one of many theories that help us know that we humans are creative people.
Brainstorming (known also as free flowing, fluid) is only a tool used for divergent production, however there are many different methods to increase the quantity of ideas and to appeal to individual styles. We know also that we have preferences to how we think and the use of different methods offer us choice to our fluid thinking.
Brainstorming is not a problem solving method, and it is not a decision-making tool. However, its dynamic balance between divergent and convergent production allows for evaluation.

2 Tips for Managers who'd like to do a Brainstorming before a Major Decision
Sergio Leite, Analyst, Brazil, Member
- Even in a brainstorming session the facilitator need to apply a method able to stimulate its members' participation.
- Goals must be well set, approved and disclosed to all the members in order to give orientation to the decision-making process. Moreover, goals frequently reminded will help the meeting to stay on track and not run away from its purposes. That helps to tend to a less number and more centralized ideas.

2 more Tips for Brainstoming to Prepare an Important Decision
Ryan Sardon, Consultant, Peru, Member
- Keep people motivated during the session is key for the brainstorming process.
- Make a session not longer than an hour and if it's possible a 30 mins. meeting.

Brainstorming with a Little Extra
Sheajad Bhayani, Student (MBA), Member
Osborn's brainstorming is good. But we can add our own ways/ideas to it. Osborn's ways (in my opinion) does not look much on productivity (of individual and group). But we can. We should also focus on quality of ideas that are generated by members.
- Both individuals and the group can after the brainstorming do a performance analysis. Consider that many invention of the past were done while scientists were having a group lunch in between their work. As scientists, they look upon the quality of the ideas. Also they won't do branstorming again and again, and do in a short break of lunch.
- Another possibility is to give credit to person who thought of an idea. If one member build upon an idea of another member, than credit both of them. You can even credit ALL those who were involved in an idea forming process.
I certainly appreciate all the member's contributions in this brainstorming at 12manage!

Brainstorming for Management only
Shankar, Manager, India, Member
So many reactions from various countries! This itself looks like an informal brainstorming session. However, there is a distinct undertone, though subtle, that only management people have the requisite expertise to participate in brainstorming. If there is an excellent suggestion hiding in the mind of an ordinary worker, then unfortunately it cannot come out for lack of opportunity to express.

Moderator Conducting Brainstorming Sessions Should Be Open to Suggestions
Radha Raj, India, Member
The moderator should have excellent communication skills, especially listening, and accepting suggestions. Otherwise, it is a useless exercise. He/she will have to do all the homework. The environment should depict professional approach.

Qualities of a Moderator for Effective Brainstorming
V SHRIDHAR, Consultant, India, Member
@Radha Raj : I agree with you. A moderator is a person who directs the brainstorming team to a fruitful, feasible and a successful outcome. According to my observation and experience the following are the desired qualities of a moderator:
1. Calm, composed, cool
2. Excellent communication skills
3. A silent and intent listener
4. Acceptance to all the ideas
5. Should be able to direct the team towards the target.

Brainstorming and Problem Solving
Solomon Trevor Mokadi, Manager, China, Member
My take on this topic is that you need a balanced moderator but most importantly someone who has a clear understanding of the topic at hand. Else you could quickly go into analysis paralysis. The other point is that it always works better to break into smaller teams, so that everybody have a chance to contribute, and then bring all contributions to the table for a ranking and prioritization process. That way everyone buys in.

Heterogeneity in Brainstorming Sessions
R.S. MATHUR, Teacher, India, Member
@Shankar: heterogeneity lies at the heart of any brainstorming session. Which means you must include everyone capable of contributing creative/innovative ideas/solutions irrespective of hierarchical position or even from related or unrelated departments. In fact I have witnessed excellent inputs from persons not related to the area under discussion, as they have an entirely different perspective and are unbiased.

In Brainstorming, Qualified Team Members are Essential
Nayomi Kankanamge, Student (University), Sri Lanka, Member
When doing brainstorming it is essential to select a good qualified team. It enhances the transparency as well as the quality of the work.
And also it simplifies the work. It is hard to deal with each and every person. Though it is good intheory, it may be impossible in reality.
In such a situation, brainstorming with a selected group is the best alternative.

Accountability for Suggestions: Reverse Responsibility
Shankar, Manager, India, Member
I refer to the last paragraph of the orginal comment: "accountability" is very effective. A retired professor of T. I. F. R., Mumbai uses the phrase "reverse responsibility" which means, if your suggestion is accepted, then you must actively participate in its implementation!

Blindsiding Behavior and Accountability in Brainstorming
robert trowhill, Consultant, Canada, Member
It is often the case that the key decision maker(s) will not participate in brainstorming sessions and may withhold input until the final conclusion is presented. They will then submit their opinion(s) giving them the apparent weight of the team recommendation. This 'blindsiding behavior' is evident not just in industrial settings but political and non-profit settings as well.

Accountability in Brainstorming
V SHRIDHAR, Consultant, India, Member
@Robert, according to my view, brainstorming as we all know is a platform for democratic, transparent, free & Frank discussion. Brainstorming will yield good result only everyone in the team follow this rule. There is no room for complacency or feeling of success or failure for a particular member. Everyone has to aim for the success of the project and everyone will be the part of the 'winning" team. To encourage and to taste the fruit of a successful brainstorming the top management has to adhere to the rules of the game. They should set an example to all the employees.

Brainstorming versus the Actual Decision Choice
Rob Bikoko, ICT Consultant, Zimbabwe, Member
My take is while we observe the fundamental rules of being democratic, transparent, free and frank, acceptance of diversity of opinions, effectiveness of brainstorming session is only realised on the outcome of the brainstorming session.
The "outcome", which is the the decision made, must be able to solve the problem at hand.
In other words brainstorming is a group rational decision making process; where the best alternative is selected and implemented at the end of the session.
The same steps of any rational decision-making process should be taken into account by incorporating all opinions from all members who bring forward their opinions.
The following are the steps; 1. Define the problem, 2. Identify the decision criteria, 3. Allocate weights to the criterion, 4. Develop alternatives (by taking opinions from members), 5, evaluate the alternatives, 6. Select the best alternative.

Constraints in Brainstorming (Decsion-making) Process
V SHRIDHAR, Consultant, India, Member
@Rob Bikoko : I agree with your steps for a perfect brainstorming/decision process.
The moderator has an important role in this. He has to clearly state the problem and also the constraints involved. He has to emphasize that the forum is open for discussion, but the best decision has to come out within a specific time.
Aren't we all in favor of a timely decision allowing a timely action? It is imperative that the best of the alternatives will be taken, considering: cost effectiveness, timely completion of task etc.

Brainstorming Though Useful, Can Be Time-consuming
vince, HR Consultant, Trinidad and Tobago, Member
Wow! What an "avalanche" of thoughts/ideas.
This discourse in itself has been quite edifying and has presented some very useful suggestions for practical ideas while generating thought provoking discussions.
I agree that brainstorming is a useful tool, but at times the need for rapid business decisions may not allow the time that brainstorming will demand.
Notwithstanding one cannot discount its usefulness where applicable. Great suggestions though! Thanks.

Brainstorming Missing Aspects
Jamil Adil, Manager, Pakistan, Member
@Robert Trowhill: excellent point Robert. One should not ignore such aspects. That can ruin expected results as well as the process.
Decision makers should not keep quiet during the whole session and divert at the end while taking a very week contribution of any participant and just make the decision.
That will cause discouragement of participants too. Next time, they might not participate in a brainstorming session or only disheartened!
So, facilitator should also have some tricks to avoid this situation:
* Request the decision maker to present his findings with clear demarcation of strong and weak outputs made by participants justified by rational arguments.
* Open up decision makers before others talk and encounter their contribution (if found weak) with strong one or
* Arrange group work at end to bring recommendations based on the brainstorming session.

Brainstorming and Decision Making
Pradeepbajaj, Director, India, Member
We are living in an age, with newer bottles and same old wines. It is a foregone conclusion that older the wine, the better the quality. But fundamentally, there are still three stages of doing anything (carrying out a task/ implementing a plan, or whatever else it may be referred to). These are:
1. Analysis / discussion (for example in the form of brainstorming)
2. Decision making (including issuing of orders, as I call it).
3. Implementation of the decision / task / plan / action plan.
This process better take place in this order. Any change in sequence of this process can only be disruptive.

We are Living in an Age of Feedback Loops
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada, Premium Member
@Pradeepbajaj: My version of the three stages is:
1. Vision: determining where we want to be
2. Strategy: deciding how to get there
3. Execution: implementing the strategy
I agree that this order is best for planning purposes, but now realize the order is no longer linear / sequential but looped due to unforeseen and uncontrollable forces.
For example, executing a strategy may yield unintended consequences; the proper response would be to change the strategy. During implementation, serendipity may occur and the wise move would be to abandon the planned vision for a better end in mind.
I like using the word "disruptive", especially if it leads us to something a whole lot sweeter.

Brainstorming Shall Be Used to Find Out HOW we Could do Things
Javier Elenes, Business Consultant, Mexico, Member
Brainstorm could be used to enrich HOW to do things. But the definition of WHAT should be done (the vision) and WHY that should be done (the purpose) is the main responsibility of the leader.
In others words: explain to your people the what and why and ask for ideas and ways in how to...

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