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A perfect (brain)storm?

07 Dec 2010

I’m often invited to brainstorm ideas. 90% of the time, the format is identical to the one I was taught in school:

The person running the brainstorm sets the ground rules (no criticism), defines what the subject is and then stands at a whiteboard and invites people to shout out ideas, writing as fast as they can to keep up with the flow (but never managing to capture them all). After a  few minutes, the group stands back to ‘evaluate’ what has been said (in a fairly random way)

Does this approach capture the diverse thinking in the room? Does everyone get a chance to creative?
Does it  generate new options (rather than gathering things people have already thought of)?
Does this approach work for you?  – Do you feel that you’ve come up with your best creative ideas in these sessions?

How else should group creative thinking be done? What is the best you’ve seen?

Let us know and we’ll post the ideas we like the most.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 07 Dec 2010 10:41 am

    Sadly, this is how most people define brainstorming. And that ain’t all there is!

    There are only about 50 alternative ways to go, 49 of them better than what you describe.

    One simple one is “brainwriting” — which has people writing down the ideas themselves, in silence, but building off others ideas as they pass around sheets loaded with a dozen post it notes. Works great, you usually get More ideas than white board brainstorming.

    For another view on this topic, see this post on how brainstorming is defined:

    • david's ideas permalink
      07 Dec 2010 12:28 pm

      thank you Gregg – building on the brainwriting approach, we’ve found movement can help.
      So we set up the ideas zone on one wall of the room and on the other side, a table with a number of prompts (objects, words generated by the group themselves). Each participant selects an object and as they return to the wall, they write an idea (stimulated by the prompt) on a post-it and place it on the wall. They then walk back and pick another prompt. We find that the ‘drum-beat’ of walking back and forward prevents people evaluating their ideas too soon and encourages those who feel they may have fewer ideas to come up with lots! People also get to see what others are writing momentarily.


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