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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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Forum discussions about Brainstorming. Below you can ask a question about this topic, share your experiences, report a new development, or explain something.

topic Examples of Ground Rules. Tips for Facilitators
What are Ground Rules? When you're going to participate in some form of group activity, it's a good idea to agree beforehand upon some rules all participants must follow. Such agreements are called: ...
Comments22 comments
topic How to Measure the Effectiveness of Brainstorming Sessions?
Time and time again research shows that in general meetings are only 40% effective, with the rest of it being non-value adding activities. How can we measure the effectiveness of a brainstorming sessi...
Comments34 comments
topic Brainstorming is an Outlet for Hidden Ideas and Increases Employee Engagement
Brainstorming is a platform for free suggestions and a democratic way of solving completed complex problems in any industry. This creates an opportunity for hidden ideas to come to fore. The members ...
Comments2 comments
topic Brainstorming - Dealing with Excess of Information
My latest brainstorming meetings for SWOT analysis generated more (much more) material than I expected, directed to several companies areas. I have now a great deal of information to treat. Is there...
Comments2 comments
topic Use Brainstorming as a New Leader
I used brainstorming sessions to generate ideas and also to get to know how my team thinks. When you're a new leader of an organization, get the team together and brainstorm about what needs to be imp...
Comments1 comments
topic Brainstorming Outcome: the Next Step
Brainstorming is a creative strategy where individuals can squeeze their brains to think out of the box and obtain something novel with the rest of the team. After the brainstorming session is done, o...
Comments1 comments
topic The Paradox of Brainstorming
Sadly, in most organisations that I have consulted to or worked in the managers leading brainstorms have not actually conducted them properly. Too often they have descended into untimed, chart lists a...
Comments1 comments
topic Brainstorming is Team-building
Agreements on management issues and approaches strengthen team-spirit and enhance common values. Differences in management issues and approaches when positively taken for the good of an organization ...
Comments2 comments
topic Suggestion Boxes | Suggestion Schemes
I view brainstorming as a collection of 'suggestions' within a small group inside the four walls. In our factory we had a "suggestion scheme". Suggestions were invited from the workmen on product dev...
Comments1 comments
🔥 Learning Canvas 3.0 for Brainstorming
The Learning Canvas (Alexandre Magno, "How Creative Workers Learn") might be useful as a tool for brainstorming sessions. Since brainstorms meetings do not exclude any idea or judge any suggestions ...
Comments1 comments
topic Branstorming session - No more Purpose - Time to stop.
A brainstroming session serves no more purpose when and after the particpants have nothing to say anymore about the issues at hand. It is then time to stop....
Comments3 comments
topic Brainstorming Difficulties
Brainstorming is a great idea. Staffs at all level and spectrum shall be engaged in the entire process of the exercise. Dfficulties normally cropped up in such sessions are the absense of shared valu...
Comments1 comments

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Best Practices

The best, top-rated topics about Brainstorming. Here you will find the most valuable ideas and practical suggestions.

🥇 Start Brainstorming Process Individually, Then Move to Group Process
When people work as a group to brainstorm it limits novelty and creativity. People censor what they believe a group will accept (Groupthink). Research has found that brainstorming ought to begin with...
Comments21 comments

🥈 Tips to Prepare a Brainstorming Session
A good method to open the mind and stimulate creative thinking is to start with asking a simple question like "What can you do with a glass of water". Just go around in the group and let everyone ans...
Comments2 comments

🥉 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 years of industrial experience I have found it is useful and wise to do brainstormin...
Comments42 comments

topic Conditions for Brainstorming
A good brainstorming session is possible only if all the participants are: 1. Respecting each other and 2. Follow the etiquette of discussion, i.e. listening to the others without interrupting them ...
Comments6 comments

topic Store your Brainstorming Ideas - They May be of Use Later
During brainstorming sessions, varied thoughts come out of the team which can be co related to "ideas" captured earlier. An idea that was conceived a year back, may serve as a baseline for today 's to...
Comments9 comments

topic Electronic Brainstorming (E-Brainstorming)
Who has any experiences to share on Electronic Brainstorming? Under what circumstances would you recommend using it?...
Comments3 comments

topic How to Use Affinity Diagrams (KJ Diagrams) in Brainstorming
I have been using the Affinity Diagram method for a long time now and this has proven to be a hit when it comes to selecting criteria and then categorizing ideas. It's participative, silent, quick and...
Comments3 comments

topic Use Six Thinking Hats to Structure Brainstorming Sessions
I suggest using the Six Thinking Hats method to organize thinking in a brainstorming session: 1. Start by wearing a Blue hat as a facilitator and explain the purpose of the session and the meeting ru...
Comments5 comments

topic Combine Brainstorming with Cause and Effect Diagram (Ishikawa)
I find that combining Brainstorming with a Cause and Effect Diagram (Ishikawa) helps to generate ideas while the structure of the diagram helps to keep the ideas flowing. If the team comes to a stop o...
Comments3 comments

topic Network Brainstorming (via Internet)
Network brainstorming (on the Internet) (electronic brainstorming) is as a process much more difficult than the traditional process conducted in one room: - Members of the group don't recognize and u...
Comments3 comments

Expert Tips

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


What to do if your Brainstorm Process Got Stuck?

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

Variations of Brainstorming

Creative thinking, Decision-making, Brainwriting, Nominal Group Technique, Group Passing Technique, Team Idea Mapping
* Brainwriting / Nominal Group Technique: This technique can be used to ensure that each participant has an equal say i...

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 Brainstorming

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
The benefits of group decision-making include: - Synergy: Group decisions tend to combine and improve on the knowledge...

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 Brainstorming

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 Brainstorming. Resolutions

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

Advantages of Brainstorming

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 Brainstorming

Better Brainstorming
In order to generate better ideas from your brainstorming 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
There's a relationship between two initiating behaviors and meeting success, namely, Proposing – putting forward new ide...

Brainstorming Sensitive Issues / Brainstorming Avoiding Groupthink

Brainstorming Variants, Brainstorming
Cardstorming is a creativity tool, similar to Brainstorming, allowing people to share ideas. It can be used as an altern...

Affinity Diagram Technique

Structuring Brainstorming
Affinity diagrams offer a special way of structuring brainstorming sessions. This technique allows groups of employees t...

Disadvantages of Brainstorming

Creative thinking, Decision-m.
* Very dependent on the contribution of the participants. * Most of the resolutions are very often unusable (more than...

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

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


Brainstorming: a Creative Problem Solving Instrument

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

Creative Thinking Techniques and Creative Problem Solving Methodologies

Creativity, Innovation Management
This presentation elaborates on the concept of creative thinking. It pays particular attention to the multiple methodolo...

Generating Ideas: Concept Generation Methods

Idea Generation, Brainstorming, 6-3-5 Method, Brain-writing, Theory of Incentive Problem Solving, TIPS, TRIZ
This presentation about idea generation provides a clear description of an idea generating process. The presentation in...

Individual Decision Making and Group Decision Making

Decision Making Process, Groupthink, Decision Making Styles, Vroom-Yetton Method
Presentation about Decision Making by groups and individuals. The presentation includes the following sections: 1. Know...

Increasing Group Participation: The 3 I's of Participation

Increase Participation in Groups (Workshops, Trainings, Project Teams)
Steve Davis explains his model to increase Group Participation. There are three types of participation: 1. Physical ...

Brainstorming Diagram

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

Research Links

Jump to further research sources regarding Brainstorming.













Compare:  Groupthink  |  Spiral of Silence  |  Cause and Effect Diagram  |  Mind Mapping  |  Six Thinking Hats  |  Belbin Team Roles  |  Metaplan  |  Stage-Gate  |  Scenario Planning  |  Game Theory  |  Root Cause Analysis  |  Dialectical Inquiry  |  Analogical Strategic Reasoning  |  Theory of Constraints  |  Force Field Analysis  |  Catalytic Mechanisms  |  Johari Window  |  Delphi Method  |  Pyramid Principle  |  Value Engineering

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