Business Consulting 101 - Why when and how to use Brainstorming Sessions

Why when and how to use Brainstorming Sessions

The purpose of any brainstorming session is to provide a task group with a wide range of ideas and angles around any given topic.

Brainstorming is an effective tool to produces many distinct ideas or possible solutions to a problem in a very short time

Brainstorming stimulates the creative thinking process which is otherwise restricted due to various constraints and in a good productive brainstorming session, the ideas of everyone in the group are considered.

Brainstorming is an effective tool to use when it becomes necessary to ensure a range of ideas are considered before moving forward in a direction.

Brainstorming Session Considerations

Completing elements in a project charter

Identifying customers to include in research

Identifying potential causes to investigate

Identifying types of data to collect

Identifying solution ideas

Brainstorming Process

Review the problem definition

Clarify the goal/question and provide any relevant information

Give everyone a few minutes of silence to think about the question and individually write down some ideas

For ease of consolidation later, have people write down their ideas on self-stick notes or cards (one idea per note or card)

Encourage creativity; no idea is too outrageous for brain-storming

Gather ideas

Do a round robin, where people state one idea at a time, or do an open "popcorn," where anyone can speak up at any time.

Capture every idea…

If ideas are written on self-stick notes, post them on the wall, board, or flip chart

Alternatively, have each person read one idea aloud so a scribe can write it on a flip chart posted where everyone can see it

If doing cause analysis, post the ideas on a blank cause-and-effect diagram (this helps make sure all categories are considered)

Do not allow discussion until after all ideas are gathered; allow only questions of clarification. ("By ‘important’ do you mean to us or to our customers?")

OK for people to write down or add new ideas sparked during the sharing session. Make sure the new idea is captured on both the flip chart and on a self-stick note.

Continue until everyone is out of ideas.

Consolidate similar ideas and discuss the complete set of ideas. Use other tools as appropriate:

To narrow down or prioritize items, use Multivoting

Brainstorming Best Practices

Go for quantity (not necessarily quality) in the early rounds

Allow individuals to complete their thoughts

Build on existing ideas

Be brief when stating an idea

Organize, categorize, and evaluate only after the brainstorming session

Keep the self-stick notes even if you transcribe ideas onto a flip chart (the self-stick notes can be reused for creating an affinity diagram)

Avoid the following while Brainstorming

Criticize ideas (do not allow "idea assassins")

Make judgments as ideas are being offered

Paraphrase an individual's idea when scribing

Allow any one person to dominate the session