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Brainstorming ProcessThe Brainstorming (brainstorm) method is a semi-structured creative group activity, used most often in ad-hoc business meetings to come up with new ideas for innovation or improvement. Members of the group are encouraged to put forward ideas about a problem and how it may be solved, in order to generate as many ideas as possible, even if they are not always usable alternatives. The idea behind brainstorming is, that a group of people can achieve a higher (synergy) level of creativity than the sum of the participants separately.

Brainstorming Rules

Three major rules for a successful brainstorm session are:

  1. Participants should be encouraged to come up with as much ideas as possible, however strange they are (there are no bad ideas).
  2. No judgment should be given about any idea, until the end of the session. Whether negative or positive.
  3. Participants should be encouraged to build on each others ideas, creating unlikely combinations and taking each one in unexpected directions.

Brainstorming hints

Some hints for a successful brainstorm session are:

  • Use an experienced facilitator. External?
  • Appoint one person to write down all ideas that come out of the brainstorm session.
  • Use a flip chart for making the notes. This enables later study and evaluation at the end of the session.
  • Identify a precise topic to be discussed (keep the session focused on the problem).
  • No more than 8-10 people in one session. If there are more participants, then split up the brainstorm session and report to each other afterwards.
  • One person writes everything down.
  • Evaluate the ideas in 2 steps: A: define the criteria. B: score the results on the criteria.
  • At the end of the brainstorming session you should discuss the steps needed to implement the ideas. If this is complicated, do another brainstorming session on how to implement the ideas.
  • Clearly define the problem you want solved, and lay out any criteria to be met.
  • Ensure that no one criticizes or evaluates ideas during the session. Criticism introduces an element of risk for group members when putting forward an idea. This stifles creativity and cripples the free running nature of a good brainstorming 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 with the brainstorming meeting.
  • Encourage people to come up with as many ideas as possible. Both the solidly practical ones and the wildly impractical ones are welcome.
  • 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.

The effectiveness of brainstorming

Although brainstorms are used frequently worldwide for over 70 years, the effectiveness of them for generating new ideas is debatable. Brainstorms are most effective to generate a lot of ideas in a short timeframe. Group processes are also effective for evaluating existing ideas. However (bright) individuals are said to be better at creating original and higher-quality ideas.

Book: Michael Michalko - Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity)

Book: Jason Rich - Brain Storm: Tap into Your Creativity to Generate Awesome Ideas and Remarkable Results

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Examples of Ground Rules. Tips for Facilitators
What are Ground Rules?
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B Difficulties
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The top-rated topics about Brainstorming. Here you will find the most valuable ideas and practical suggestions.

Start B Process Individually, Then Move to Group Process
When people work as a group to brainstorm it limits novelty to start as a group to early. People censor what they believ (...)

Tips to Prepare a B Session
A good method to open the mind and stimulate creative thinking is to start with asking a simple question like "What can (...)

Do a Brainstorm Session to Make (or Prepare for) Major Decisions
It is adviseable to conduct a branstorm session before any big project for an effective decision making. In my long year (...)

Conditions for B
A good B session is possible only if all the participants are:
1. Respecting each other and
2. Fol (...)

Store your B Ideas - They May be of Use Later
During B sessions, varied thoughts come out of the team which can be co related to "ideas" captured earlier. (...)

Electronic B (E-B)
Who has any experiences to share on Electronic B? Under what circumstances would you recommend using it? (...)

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Use Six Thinking Hats to Structure B Sessions
I suggest using the Six Thinking Hats method to organize thinking in a B session:
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Combine B with Cause and Effect Diagram (Ishikawa)
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Network B (via Internet)
Network B (on the Internet) (electronic B) is as a process much more difficult than the traditio (...)

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Advanced insights about Brainstorming. Here you will find professional advices by experts.

What to do if your Brainstorm Process Got Stuck?

B session did not provided enough good ideas…
Also refered to as: 'Negative B'. You reword the problem to how to create it, and then work towards the solu (...)

Variations of B

Creative thinking, Decision-making, Brainwriting, Nominal Group Technique, Group Passing Technique, Team Idea Mapping
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Evaluating Ideas

Checklist to Evaluate Ideas
Princeton Creativity Research has developed the following 12 steps checklist to accurately evaluate ideas: 1) Have you c (...)

Group Composition for Successful B

Make sure that the participants in the group do not think alike. Have different personality types in the session. Brai (...)

The Advantages of Group Decision-Making

Group Decision-Making
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The Disadvantages of Group Decision-Making

Group Decision-Making
The drawbacks of group decision-making include: - Longer time frame: Groups generally need more time to make decisions (...)

The Paradox of B

Rules and No Rules
Sadly, in most organisations that I have consulted to or worked in the managers leading brainstorms have not actually co (...)

Determining the Relevance of Ideas

When you need to distinguish what is relevant from what is not, it can be useful sometimes to start understanding and li (...)

Problems with Group B. Resolutions

Group Creative Thinking, Group B, Group Decision-making
Empirical research has shown that group B is only about half as effective as individual B due to (...)

Advantages of B

Creative thinking, Decision-m.
* Facilitates the generation of innovative ideas and improvements, as well as the finding of unusual solutions to proble (...)

Increasing the Quality of the Ideas in B

Better B
In order to generate better ideas from your B sessions, Kevin P. Coyne and Shawn T. Coyne ("Seven Steps to B (...)

Meeting Types: Proposing Something New or Building on Another Idea?

Brainstorm Meeting Types
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B Sensitive Issues / B Avoiding Groupthink

B Variants, B
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Affinity Diagram Technique

Structuring B
Affinity diagrams offer a special way of structuring B sessions. This technique allows groups of employees t (...)

Disadvantages of B

Creative thinking, Decision-m.
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The Role of Diversity in Personal Traits on Innovation and Innovativeness

Innovation, Increasing Organizational Innovativeness
New research by Hewlett, Marshall and Sherbin proves that diversity (of personal and team traits) drives innovation and (...)
Information Sources

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Various sources of information regarding Brainstorming. Here you will find powerpoints, videos, news, etc. to use in your own lectures and workshops.

B: a Creative Problem Solving Instrument

Teaching B, Conducting a Brainstorm Session
Clear presentation about the concept of B, by H. Balácková, including the following sections: 1. Concept of (...)

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Generating Ideas: Concept Generation Methods

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Individual Decision Making and Group Decision Making

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Increasing Group Participation: The 3 I's of Participation

Increase Participation in Groups (Workshops, Trainings, Project Teams)
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B Diagram

Download and edit this 12manage PowerPoint graphic for limited personal, educational and business use. Republishing in (...)

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