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Author: Hank (Han) Zhao
Edited by Christine Keene
Brainstorming is a group problem-solving/ creativity technique, in which a group of people uses their collective intelligence to approach a creative problem. This technique inspires people to come up with creative ideas. Brainstorming sessions should be used at the very beginning of a project and should address a specific question.
Brainstorming was originally discovered in the late nineteen-forties by Alex Osborn. It was developed to inspire employees to produce creative ideas for ad campaigns.
This technique is performed in order to get a quantity of creative ideas and encourage people to use their imagination.
This technique is also known as: storm ideas, creativity and brainstorming, idea generation or creative thinking.
Brainstorming sessions, through poor facilitation or lack focus, can be less productive than expected. The six thinking hats technique, created by Edward de Bono, can overcome this problem. When wearing one hat at a given point of time, a group can focus on one aspect of the issue at hand, increasing the productivity of the brainstorming session.
Using the Technique
- Define a problem or opportunity and craft a specific question.
- Identify participants: the group can include 8 to 16 people. Not every group member needs to be an expert on the specific question.
- Participants should be trained in advance, so that they understand the brainstorming process prior to tackling the major issue.
- Set a time limit.
- Ask participants to shout out ideas, encouraging all participants to be active in the process.
- Record solutions. Typically, two facilitators will capture ideas from the group on a whiteboard or flipchart.
- Participants are encouraged to provide unusual/creative answers. Criticism is reserved.
Ideas can be combined and improved to form better solutions.
A specific question must be asked, such as, “How might we increase the computer literacy among elderly people?”
The process will yield a large quantity of answers.
Next Steps after Exercise
- Once creative/good ideas are formed and listed, it is necessary to prioritize them to reach the best solution. In order to prioritize them, select the five best ideas through team consensus.
- Choose five criteria for judging ideas that best solve the problem.
- Give each idea a score.
- The idea with highest score will be a strong solution.
The design firm IDEO used the brainstorming technique to develop the first Apple mouse.
Baumgartner, Jeffrey. (2012). The Step by Step Guide to Brainstorming. Retrieved from http://www.jpb.com/creative/brainstorming.php.
Brainstorming. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainstorming.
Clark, Charles H. (2011). Brainstorming: The Dynamic New Way to Create Successful Ideas. Whitefish, MT: Literary Licensing.
Cory, T., & Slater, T. (2003). Brainstorming: Techniques for New Ideas. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.
IDEO. (n.d.). Mouse for Apple. Retrieved from http://www.ideo.com/work/mouse-for-apple/
Lehrer, Jonah. (2012, January 30). The Brainstorming Myth. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/01/30/120130fa_fact_lehrer.
Merriam-Webster. (2012). Brainstorming. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brainstorming.