Brainstorming


What is Brainstorming?

Brain Storming is a group or individual creativity exercise, where new ideas around a specific area of interest is generated spontaneously without criticism. It is a great technique to help groups or individuals break through sessions where people are unable to generate ideas or want to discover new ideas that have never been explored before.

General Steps of Brainstorming


  1. Define the problem clearly. The problem must require the generation of ideas to solve.
  2. Decide how many ideas the team needs to collectively generate.
  3. Share the rules of brainstorming.
  4. Conduct brainstorming type of choice.
  5. Conclude the brainstorming when target number of ideas is attained or overall time runs out.
  6. Move on to idea selection stage.

Rules of Brainstorming


1. Its a Numbers Game!

The more the merrier! As the saying goes "quantity breeds quality". The more ideas generated, the higher the chances of finding the best solution. Suggest to set a total number of ideas the group is trying to achieve. Depending on the complexity of the topic, an average of 5 to 10 ideas multiplied by each participants is a common number.


2. No Judgment & Criticisms

Anything goes! In brainstorming, you do not discard ideas, nor do you judge the quality or viability of the idea. How good, bad or suitable the idea, is to be decided at a later stage. So record all your crazy ideas.


3. Combine & Improve Ideas

Its encouraged to freely share your ideas during the brainstorming process. By sharing, you help to inspire your peers to combine or improve on ideas and ultimately come out with even more ideas.


4. Fast & Furious

Break up the brainstorming session into shorter intervals of 3 to 5 mins for simple ideas and up to 10 mins for more complicated ideas. Keeping the time short will help people to prevent judgement and criticism of their own ideas.

Increase the duration of intervals when the problem is very complex and will require a longer duration to generate a single idea or members are expected to generate multiple ideas each interval.

Types of Brainstorming


There many variations of brainstorming, from individual to a variety of group methods. The following list are some of the suggested methods but feel free to modify and experiment to fit the needs of your team.

Rapid Brain Writing

The key to this method is generating ideas individually before sharing them in the group. This will help to prevent group think after any initial discussion.

After the first 3 step are conducted, the team leader will brief the team on the process of rapid brain writing.

  1. Set a duration for short intervals. (i.e 3 to 5 mins per interval) and number of intervals
  2. Brief members to write a new idea in each interval without any discussion
  3. Set stopwatch and start interval (prompt members in the last 30 secs)
  4. Members will now briefly share or show their ideas with the team. Keep sharing short and simple.
  5. Move on to the second interval
  6. Repeat steps 2 to 4 until target number of ideas is attained or overall time runs out.


If the team leader is seeing a lot of groupthink, he or she may reduce the number of times step 4 is conducted or delayed until it until the end of all intervals.

Online Brain Writing

This is a modified version of brain writing conducted using online applications like skype (voice and chat text) or Google Docs and Whatsapp group call. While it is possible to conduct the session without the use of voice chat, the inclusion of voice will make it easier for team briefing and post discussion.


  1. Create a group chat or google doc with all members. Create voice chat.
  2. Define the problem clearly in text and voice
  3. Decide how many ideas the team needs to collectively generate.
  4. Share the rules of brainstorming in text or voice
  5. Set a duration for short intervals. (i.e 3 to 5 mins per interval) and number of intervals
  6. Brief members to write a new idea in each interval without any discussion. If google doc is used, team leader may setup tables and allocate a row to each member for entry of ideas.
  7. Set stopwatch and start interval (prompt members in the last 30 secs)
  8. Members will take a moment to read each other's ideas.
  9. Move on to the second interval
  10. Repeat steps 6 to 8 until target number of ideas is attained or overall time runs out.


Stepladder

The key to this method is that every member in the team to contribute individually before being influenced by everyone else. This will help prevent groupthink or the entire team being swayed by 1 or 2 individuals.


After the first 3 step are conducted, the team leader will brief the team on the process of brain writing.

  1. Set a duration for short intervals. (i.e 3 to 5 mins per interval) First interval is double duration.
  2. All members will leave the room, leaving only 2 members (shy members should start first)
  3. The 2 members will discuss and share their ideas
  4. 1 additional member will enter the room and share his or her idea immediately
  5. The remaining members will then share their ideas
  6. Repeat step 4 and 5 until all members are in the room. The leader or the most vocal members will be the last to enter.

Do note that this method is only suitable for groups of 5 to 15 people. Once the group gets larger, the process will take too long and may become unproductive.

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