Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a quick and economical way of obtaining a large number of suggestions/ideas/alternatives. It is a creative process which, from an initial statement of the problem, quickly diverges to produce a sizeable listing.

There are many other ways of achieving this, but most involve much greater time and effort. The brainstorming group may be made up entirely of internal staff, but many other choices can be made to suit specific situations and groups of experts from several disciplines and organisations for example may be appropriate. [See also Focus Groups]

BARRIERS TO CREATIVITY

Metra Martech has found many barriers to creativity which, unless properly tackled, can substantially reduce the quality and quantity of the approach. Some of the main barriers are: Self Imposed ... erroneous assumptions which subconsciously prevent the full variety of alternatives being generated Unique Answer ... it is often mentally difficult to create new thoughts, once a reasonably good idea has been articulated Conformity ... one particular option, clearly consistent with the group's norms and culture, is often chosen to the exclusion of others Quick Evaluation/Instant Solutions ... can often lead to mind-closing, either through the "not invented here" syndrome, or because of a reluctance to develop new ideas into practical alternatives Fear of Appearing Foolish ... often leads to comments being strangled at birth, the originator being afraid of appearing foolish.

TYPICAL STAGES IN BRAINSTORMING

Metra Martech's brainstorming sessions typically involve the stages detailed below.

  • Stage A - Preparation
  • Encouraging Creative Thinking - this is vital for participants new to brainstorming. It focuses upon barriers to creativity. If such barriers become evident, this stage could well last for over an hour.
  • Statement of Issues - the issues involved are outlined so that all participants have a sufficient introduction to the topics under discussion whilst latent creativity is not suffocated by too much.
  • Re-statement of Issues - most peoples' thought processes are conditioned by the way an issue is initially presented. To generate creativity, an issue needs to be explored, walked around and climbed over. Issues should be restated in as many ways as possible. The more helpful restatements will then be used as alternative inputs to the formal Brainstorming session.
  • Stage B - Delivery
  • Warm-Up Session - to relax the atmosphere and engender the right mood, participants might brainstorm the potential uses of, for example, a paper clip (there are at least 23).
  • Brainstorming - only after the above stages have been completed should the actual brainstorming begin. A good leader will create a free-wheeling, boisterous, atmosphere which generates a large volume of ideas.
  • Evaluation - the ideas require careful evaluation. If hundreds have been generated, perhaps only a few per cent will prove to be worthwhile. There is an obvious danger that the wheat will be thrown out with the chaff.