Introduction to BrainStroming Process:
This is a method of generating ideas or suggestion very quickly, creatively and collectively. Generally, some of the members of the team contribute to the idea generation. Component required is a room, pen, marker and a flip chart. Generally, we use this technique when the problem is being identified and defined.
History of Brainstorming
The word-Brainstorming is properly defined by Alex Faickney Osborn in 1967 in his popular book-Applied Imagination. Alex Faickney Osborne was not happy with his employees for not able to create new creative ideas for his ad agency.
During this process, he developed a creative problem-solving technique in 1939 where he described the process as Brainstorm Session. The main concept was- to use “the brains to storm a problem”.
The agenda of the Brainstorm session often called a problem statement should be clear, uncultured, crisp.
The brainstorming session may not effective to a fairly large and complex problem due to differences of opinions. Tracking all the problems and provide proper solutions may not be feasible too.
The business is complex today. They need new innovative solutions. To obtain an innovative solution people need to go out from their comfort zone and produce something unique.
Tools of Brainstorming
- Chair setting as per the group/plan/clusters.
- Whiteboard, chart papers, pen, white A4 papers.
- Post-it notes/stickers.
- Some refreshment.
- 4 colour ball pen
Use of Software in BrainStorming
Softwares are very helpful for onsite and remote workers to enable to participate in a brainstorming process.
- Candor– idea submitter app along with voting.
- Creative Timer– works as a visual watch.
- Duco– facilities effective design sprints.
- Mural.co– provides digital workspace.
- iMindQ– mind mapping tool.
- Miro, gdocs, google hangout– collaboration, communication and group working tool.
- Lucid chart– for creative drawing.
- Otter.ai– great recording tool.
- Trello– online card-based project management.
- Brain Netting tools- Slack, Google docs.
The Brainstorming Method
Brainstorming allows to think to words outside of the box but a proper success mostly comes when groupthink inside of the box and see the right-sided box.
- Try to generate a solution individually as if the problem is yours.
- Once the problem statement is clear, group members must provide a personal solution to the issue and work as a group to solve the problem
Here are the actual method summary for a successful brainstorming process
- Gather is a room with Flip chart, pen, post it, Marker.
- Invite the right people from diversified groups.
- Decide the team
- Pick a proper facilitator.
- The facilitator can share some inspiration and related researches
- write the problem and its present condition.
- Set boundaries for solution space.
- Create a Mindset of a group of curiosity.
- Context lay-outing and definition.
- Do some creative warm-up to break the ice and allow group members to loosen up.
- Provide proper space and adequate tools to the group members.
- Distribute the post it among the team member
- Set the agenda properly.
- Set the rules.
- Hold the session.
- Define Action item delivery.
- Think about the problem and solve for 5-10 mins
- Write all the solutions to the post-it(One idea/post it) and paste them on the flip chart
- Check if any new idea has come up
- Take each idea and discuss if that idea is ok with the team and its effectiveness.
- Priorities the idea using Impact diagram
- If the team can not decide to involve a third party to decide the best idea and then implement it.
- The next step discussions.
Guidelines for an effective Brainstorming-
- Remove face to face grouping among groups (remove the blocking of production, social matching etc.)
- Create rules and adhere to rules.
- Do not reject any one’s idea.
- All approached (individuals and groups) should be accepted.
- Do not rush for a solution or conclusion.
- Do not let the group of focus from the topic, put them in the track by keeping them focused and persistent.
- Take necessary breaks for more effective individual brainstorming.
- Effectively steer the session- An effective and properly trained leader can lead the brainstorming in an effective way encouraging the team members for ideas and correcting the mistakes.
- Prepare the room by creating a comfortable environment. A well-lit room with a clean whiteboard with other resources, tools, refreshment and most importantly some beverages (coffee, tea).
- Prepare the group- create a list of people who are capable of generating ideas. People do not have to be from the same group, same team and like-minded.
- The steer person can be anybody who has skill but not necessarily a project manager, scrum master or agile coach.
- Define the problem statement that needs a solution. All criteria that should be met are also needed to mention.
- Team members need a lot of quiet time to generate and contribute their ideas.
- Use experimental approaches like a provocation or random input to allow group members to generate some wild, unexpected ideas.
- Guideline for Group ideas into different buckets of themes
- Guideline on how to conduct voting for best ideas
- Create a framework to define next level steps and actions.
The Rules for Brainstorming
- Group members may help to write question but not provide any solution to the question.
- Group members should not be judgmental for the question raised till the phase appear.
- Group members can challenge any question but should not push back anybody from questioning.
- The problem statement should be told in a common English language. The organizer should not colour it and they should not influence the outcome.
- Encourage some wild out of the box or unexplored idea space.
- Try to build ideas of others.
- Put the focus on the topic.
- Allow one conversation at a time.
- Allow group members to use visual tools to showcase their ideas.
- It is always better to shake group moral. Once a group member feels that he/she is part of the solution. They can be motivated and become more productive.
How to generate ideas in Brainstorming?
The popular methods to generate ideas are as follows-
- Constraints- In this method moderator sets different limitation to channelize the thinking in the desired direction.
- Silent Brainstorming- In this method moderator does not allow the group to discuss or criticize any ideas rather only allow to write down the ideas in a rapid phase.
- Prototyping- In this method moderator allows group/group members to create a mockup of the idea to express it better. It helps others to learn quickly about the idea.
- Mashup- In this method, the moderator tries to bring the old, old and unexpected topics initiate thinking towards new ideas.
- E-storming- In this method, moderates sends the groups and outside of the group an email for collecting ideas.
- Surveying- In this method, the moderator or any other responsible person tries to question the client about an idea and then discuss with them on what they feel about the idea.
- Observation- In this method, the moderator or any other responsible person watches the clients, end customer about their behaviour on how they are engaged with some product, service etc. It gives the group a direction, new perspective. It also helps to understand the hidden challenges and new opportunities to improve the product and service.
- Other people’s shoes- In this method, group members are divided into different segments to play different roles. Then based on their feedback, the group tries to understand other person’s challenges, perspective.
- Idea wall- In this process, the moderator goes beyond the group and put up a note in the public place so that anybody and everybody can collect several ideas. This gives fuel to brainstorming later.
- Analogous Interviews- In this technique, the moderator allows the group to discuss across industries to get their perspective about a problem.
- Sketching- In this technique moderator allows the group to use drawing and relevant image to venture their ideas. This is purely visual and fewer words. This helps the group to understand the solution better.
- Rapid Ideation- In this technique, the moderator sets a time limit and focuses more on generating ideas. The time limit may vary from scenario to scenario. It is 15-25 minutes for an ideal case.
10 important pitfalls to avoid during the Brainstorming process
- Do not override the idea.
- Do not join office politics hence feel free to challenge the leader’s idea.
- Do not jump too quickly into discussion mode.
- Do not go off-topic during the brainstorming process.
- Do not lose the great ideas what you have collected during Brainstorming.
- Do not drag too long for a discussion.
- Do not neglect introverts or remote workers, allow them also to speak.
- Do not allow emotional attachment for a wild idea you created.
- Do not shuffle the ideas in a way that a great idea may vanish.
- Do not lack in making a decision about an idea.
- Do not put group members on the spot.
People involved in Brainstorming?
- The Moderator- A story leader but neutral personal typically not a project/product manager.
- The Decision Maker- A/group of person (s) who can decide and has the rights to pay a final verdict. Typically a project/product manager.
- The group- A cross-functional diversified set of people. May be experts in the respected fields.
- The challenger- A set of people who can challenge the ideas.
- The scribe- The person responsible for timekeeping and recording of ideas. Their main objective is to collect as much information as possible. Content writers are best for this.
Challenges of Effective Brainstorming
Brainstorming may lose its effectiveness due to several factors. The factors can be-
Blocking- Being a group activity, each group member contributes their ideas one by one. During idea generation of a good, relevant and important idea from a group member may completely make others untold ideas irrelevant or out of context. This may mump the group members.
Secondly, group members generally generate their ideas to short term memory and during his/her turn, they access the short term memory and extracts parts of them (mainly highlights).
Third, group members may pay more attention to other ideas criticism and discussion. They forget to generate their own idea.
Idea Merge- During discussion group members may agree to some idea that makes the idea domain thin. This process actually impacts the brainstorming process by reducing the idea from different angles, reducing the variety of ideas. This results in a reduction in final ideas count.
Too much judgment- Evaluation apprehension can happen for personal evaluation. During group idea exchange if too much of judgments come, it reduces the idea count.
Freewriting- Inferiority complexion plays a great role in group idea exchange. During the brainstorming process, a group member may have a pseudo feeling that his/her idea is less valuable compared to others. Freewriting is a prime factor for less idea count.
The personality of Individuals- In a group discussion, introverts can outperform introverts by generating quick, unique and diversified ideas.
Social Matching- Group members generally tend to change their rate of idea generation productivity in order to cope up with the other group members. But this dynamic change actually impacts the group members and eventually they generate fewer ideas.
Alternatives to Brainstorming
Beside Brainstorming there exist several other strategies mentioned below. In case Brainstorming is not suitable for your project and does not serve your purpose, these alternative can be helpful-
- Synectics- in this technique the leader of the group talks about group members goal, fantasy wishes, normal wishes, most wanted items, anger, frustration etc.
- Stepladder Technique- In this technique, priority is given to the new members of the group. They are heard first along with their ideas before the experienced or older group members speak. This allows the new members to provide an unbiased opinion. New members are often quieter. (invented in 1992)
- Bug list technique- In this technique, group members produce his/her problems, showstoppers, concerns in front of the group to discuss for a solution of the bugs they encountered.
- Buzz group- In this technique, several subgroups are created from a large group. Each subgroup produces ideas on their own. During regrouping to a large group, all ideas are discussed for a collective solution.
- Brainwriting- In this technique, the leader allows every member of the group to write down their contribution i.e. ideas on a paper or an electronic medium. Brainwriting (Slip Writing)- This approach is also known as Crawford Slip writing invented by professor Crawford in 1920.
- Online Brainstorming- or Brain-netting- In this technique, group members can document their ideas on cloud system or a central server.
- Trial and error
- Proof Reduction
- Method of focal objects
- Means and analysis
- Lateral thinking
- Design thinking
- Hypothesis testing,
- Root Cause Analysis
- Morphological Analysis
- Divide and Conquer.
- Crawford’s slip writing to Technique- Individual group members write down their own ideas to a piece of paper (slip) or a sticky note. Finally, the organizer gets plenty of ideas to pick up popular ones.
- Reverse Brainstorming- This technique helps to improve a product or service.
- Starburoting- This technique helps to generate questions for an evaluation for a proposal.
- Charette Procedure- This technique is very effective to brainstorm where a large number of members present in a group.
- Round Robin Brainstorming- In this technique, group members can generate ideas without being stereotyped (influenced).
- Role storming- In this technique, group members take different roles and contribute their ideas from the perspective of the role. In this way, they are not influenced by others.
Post Brainstorming Activities
- Activity diagram to organize the ideas and to find the common theme/patterns.
- Decision Matrix Analysis/Paired Comparison Analysis helps to find out the correct option.
- Six thinking hat- This is used to find different perspectives.
- Modified Board Count/Mutivoting helps to choose the correct options in diversified and subjective areas.
- Decide declines to act on the ideas and implement.
- Decide the owner of the idea and implementation.
Advantages of BrainStorming
- A well-managed brainstorming process can produce some radical solution by providing some unique ideas to a given problem. The group members can even go for the solution as they venture the solution.
- Brainstorming can provide the right direction in a logical way
- Produce a very large number of ideas
- Idea generation happens in a very quick time
- Helps to expand the portfolio of various alternatives
- Remove people from the situation they are stuck
- Get a broader perspective
- Provides enthusiasm for building soothing new
- Able to solve some of the tricky problems
- Team collaboration and communication can be improved.
- Checking all sorts of possibility.
- To collaborate and communicate better.
- Reduce creative burnout.
- Got down outside’s perspective.
- Helps to drive creativity and promote innovation.
Disadvantages of Brainstorming
- The Brainstorming process is notorious to generate humdrum ideas.
- The Brainstorming process may be dominated by higher ranking or outspoken group members.
- Group members may float ideas that are not achievable and far from ground reality. Those ideas, as well as time, are wasted, for not being useful.
- As the core principle of brainstorming is to provide everybody a fair chance to talk may actually slow down the process.
Brainstorming is a critical condition making process. But it has to be conducted in a purposeful way and in a light-hearted attitude. Brainstorming has two important keys-
- Rapid idea generation
- Non-threatening open communication.
Rapid idea generation is mostly applicable in no loss situation. Group members creativity increases in a focused and low-pressure environment.