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gari jenkins

Brainstorming - Generating many radical ideas


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Brainstorming is an excellent way of developing many creative solutions to a problem. It works by focusing on a problem, and then coming up with very many radical solutions to it. Ideas should deliberately be as broad and odd as possible, and should be developed as fast as possible. Brainstorming is a lateral thinking process (see the introduction to this chapter for further information) - it is designed to help you break out of your thinking patterns into new ways of looking at things.


During brainstorming sessions there should be no criticism of ideas - you are trying to open possibilities and break down wrong assumptions about the limits of the problem. Judgment and analysis at this stage will stunt idea generation.


Ideas should only be evaluated once the brainstorming session has finished - you can then explore solutions further using conventional approaches.


If your ideas begin to dry up, you can 'seed' the session with, for example, a random word (see Random Input).


Individual Brainstorming
When you brainstorm on your own you will tend to produce a wider range of ideas than with group brainstorming - you do not have to worry about other people's egos or opinions, and can therefore be more freely creative. You may not, however, develop ideas as effectively as you do not have the experience of a group to help you. 


Group Brainstorming
Group brainstorming can be very effective as it uses the experience and creativity of all members of the group. When individual members reach their limit on an idea, another member's creativity and experience can take the idea to the next stage. Group brainstorming therefore tends to develop ideas in more depth than individual brainstorming.


Brainstorming in a group can be risky for individuals. Valuable but strange suggestions may appear stupid at first sight. You therefore need to chair sessions tightly so that uncreative people do not crush these ideas and leave group members feeling humiliated.


To run a group brainstorming session effectively, do the following:

  • Define the problem you want solved clearly, and lay out any criteria to be met.

  • Keep the session focused on the problem

  • Ensure that no-one criticizes or evaluates ideas during the session. Criticism introduces an element of risk for group members when putting forward an idea. This stifles creativity and cripples the free running nature of a good brainstorming session.

  • Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among members of the group. Try to get everyone to contribute and develop ideas, including the quietest members of the group

  • Let people have fun brainstorming. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as possible, from solidly practical ones to wildly impractical ones. Welcome creativity.

  • Ensure that no train of thought is followed for too long

  • Encourage people to develop other people's ideas, or to use other ideas to create new ones

  • Appoint one person to note down ideas that come out of the session. A good way of doing this is to use a flip chart. This should be studied and evaluated after the session.


Where possible, participants in the brainstorming process should come from as wide a range of disciplines as possible. This brings a broad range of experience to the session and helps to make it more creative.

Key Points:

Brainstorming is a way of generating radical ideas. During the brainstorming process there is no criticism of ideas - free rein is given to people's creativity. Criticism and judgment cramp creativity.



@ Complexity

@ Decision Making

@ Creativity

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