Brainstorming is a procedure that encourages divergent thinking and the production of many different ideas in a short period of time. It is a method of generating ideas in quantity with the intention of getting the full participation of all group members. In essence, it represents a period of time in which all evaluation is suspended and ideas are allowed to develop freely on a particular issue. It is a time for free association of ideas and for opening new avenues of thought.
BRAINSTORMING HELPS A GROUP BY…
- increasing member involvement and participation
- providing a means of getting the most ideas in a short period of time
- reducing the need to look for the “right” idea in order to impress
authority figures in the group
- making the session more fun, interesting, and stimulating
- reducing the possibility of negative subgrouping, competition, or
one-upmanship during the problem-solving process
A TYPICAL BRAINSTORMING EXERCISE
Divide a large organization into small groups limiting each to no more than seven members. Each group is given a newsprint pad and marker. One person from each group is assigned to write down the brainstorming suggestions. Remember, each suggestion is written down and no evaluation or discussion is taken at that time.
BRAINSTORMING GROUND RULES
During the first phase all criticism or evaluation of an idea is ruled out. Ideas are suggested and placed before the group without evaluation or critical analysis.
Wild ideas are expected in the spontaneity that evolves when the group suspends judgment. Practical considerations are not important at this point. The session is to be freewheeling. Piggybacking on the suggestions of others is to be allowed and encouraged.
The second part of the exercise is to evaluate the suggestions and as a small group, rank them. The groups then join together, and one person from each small group presents the suggestions to the large group. The large group ranks the suggestions. After hearing the small group's suggestions, the large group ranks them as a whole. The alternatives are discussed and a decision follows.
WHY BRAINSTORMING WORKS
Brainstorming will be more productive if ideas are not evaluated or discussed at the time they are proposed. This is important because education and experience have trained most of us to think judicially rather than creatively. Deferring judgment on the ideas can provide more alternatives from which to choose.
Group production of ideas can be more productive than separate, individual production of ideas. Experiments in group thinking have demonstrated that the average participant in this kind of creative collaboration can think of twice as many possible solutions as when working alone.
The more ideas generated, the better. In almost any type of problem-solving, it is far more likely to choose the right path toward the solution if ten ideas are suggested as possible alternatives instead of only two or three.
THE FIVE COMMANDMENTS OF BRAINSTORMING
Every idea presented must be positive.
There will be no comments allowed regarding any idea presented. Criticism of ideas should wait until after the session.
Everyone is encouraged to speak up and to express ideas regardless of how crackpot or fantastic they may seem.
Members are encouraged to present ideas as rapidly as they come to mind.
Members are also encouraged to “hitch-hike” — to add to or revise ideas suggested by other members of the brainstorming team.