Brainstorming is a group creativity technique by which efforts are made by involving a group of people to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members. Brainstorming sessions generally does not impose any restrictions on the members, rather encourages members to think creatively and present their ideas without any fear of criticism.
But very often it is found that brainstorming sessions do not lead to the finding of expected outcomes, resulting in wasted efforts. Hence there is a need for conducting the brainstorming sessions in a more systematic and structured fashion so that it results in creating a number of meaningful and effective ideas.
Structured brainstorming refers to the process of systematic and liberal generation of a large volume of ideas from a number of participants by encouraging each of them to volunteer their creative inputs one at a time in an atmosphere that is free of criticism and judgment from other participants. Learn more about structured brainstorming with our PMP training course.
Some of the general rules followed for normal brainstorming may include the following:
- Defer judgement.
- Encourage wild ideas.
- Build on the ideas of others.
- Stay focused on the topic.
- One conversation at a time.
- Be visual.
- Go for quantity.
But to make brainstorming more effective there is a need for adopting more structured approach by keeping some of the following points in mind:
- Be aware of the limitations and restrictions of your organization – While generating ideas, the members may suggest ideas in their excitement, only to find later that these ideas will not be allowed to be taken up because of various constraints and policies of the organization. This results in wasted effort. Hence it is very important for the members in brainstorming to be aware of their limitations. This will ensure the ideas suggested will be realistic as well.
- Ask the right questions – Asking the right questions will give some direction to the team in thinking creatively but with some structure and direction. Many times the participants will think in traditional manner which will not result in creative thinking. The questions can be framed in such a manner which will facilitate the team to think beyond their existing thinking patterns.
- Choose the right people for the brainstorming session – It is very important to choose the right members who actually are capable of suggesting meaningful thoughts and who have the required understanding and knowledge on the problem under discussion
- Divide the team – Dividing the team in smaller sub groups of 3 to 5 people and giving each group a question to deliberate and ideate for a fixed amount of time, say 30-45 minutes and come up with the ideas. This will allow the sub groups to remain focused. A small group will encourage better traction among the team and people will discuss without much hesitation. It is also important to ensure the idea crushers may be wisely removed from each group. For example a boss and a subordinate should not be there in the same sub-group. It may discourage the subordinate to suggest ideas very openly.
- Encourage quality not just quantity – It is important to focus on ensuring the quality of ideas as well, not just on quantity of ideas which may all turn out to be meaningless.
- Set some ground rules for each sub group – It is important to lay down some basic ground rules for each sub group to follow to make the brainstorming session more fruitful
- Summarize and conclude – It is important to summarize and conclude each sub group discussion and conclude the overall brainstorming session with a summary of findings from the session
- Follow up – It is important to follow up by evaluating all the ideas generated from the brainstorming session and arrive at a conclusion as soon as possible. If the follow up on decision making from brainstorming is delayed, things will get diluted and may be all the effort may get lost.
Brainstorming sessions are wonderful group creativity technique which encourages a group of people to ideate freely without any fear of criticism to solve any problem. While traditional brainstorming may be fast and furious, but often are shallow, not yielding in expected outcomes. Hence structured brainstorming sessions, which are better planned and moderated, are used more often these days.
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