Brainstorming is a term used to describe a creative thinking session. The goal is to gather as many ideas and possible solutions to a problem as possible. The results will depend entirely on the reason for the brainstorming session and the group of people participating.
The technique is to get ideas and viewpoints from various angles and to explore each one further. A successful brainstorming session will end with a solid action plan that can be implemented, analysed and finally assessed. brainstorming is a useful tool for decision making and finding opportunities in a business.
Determine the group of people that should attend, if possible include at least one person from each department and all the possible stakeholders and decision makers. The group should not be limited to upper management, the best ideas frequently come from the workers themselves.
A Leader should be appointed to manage the process and maintain control of the session. Appoint a person to make notes and gather the information. Determine the session duration and issue invitations.
The room should be set out so that it has a relaxed atmosphere, preferably the seating should be in a circular fashion or gathered around a table, depending on the size of the group. Encourage people to walk around and feel relaxed. Provide a whiteboard, note paper, pens, coffee and anything else that may encourage a relaxed session.
The Brainstorming Session:
Discuss the reason for the session and clearly define the objective or problem. Ensure that all participants agree to the objective and understand the required outcome. Write the objective as a heading on the whiteboard, this will assist to keep everyone "on track" during the session.
Set the rules of the session: There should be no criticism or ridiculing of any ideas, keep on track, avoid lengthy discussions on the pros and cons of an idea, this will be done later during the investigation phase.
Encourage everyone to participate and respect each other's ideas. The Session Leader should ensure that the rules are followed and no idea is ridiculed, criticised or labelled as silly.
Commence by asking individuals to provide their thoughts/ideas and write each one on the whiteboard. You will probably find that once a few ideas have been noted, the rest will flow.
Once all ideas have been noted, then it is time to explore each one further. Group any ideas that are similar to others. Ideally you aim to have 5-10 ideas to investigate further.
Brainstorming In Action
Start with the first idea and ask "If we do this, what results/problems can we expect?"
Write each problem or result on the whiteboard. If further information is required, then note it and assign it to a person for further investigation, determine a deadline.
Next ask "To implement this, what do we need to do?" write all tasks on the board.
It helps to split the board into three sections: Problems, Results, Tasks.
Once you have completed the process for each idea, then write an action plan and a follow up session.
The action plan should include a summary of each idea, a list of further investigation requirements, who they are assigned to and deadlines.
If an idea can be implemented immediately, then it should include the tasks, who they are assigned to and the associated deadline for that task.
Brainstorming sessions are excellent tools to solve problems and determine further opportunities. A brainstorming session can be done on an individual basis successfully, however a group session will allow for different viewpoints from all areas and flaws are often quickly identified by a third part participant.
Remember brainstorming sessions are about getting ideas, seeing things from different viewpoints and gaining input from various areas.