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What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a tool used by teams to bring out the ideas of each individual and present them in an orderly fashion to the rest of the team. Brainstorming creates new ideas, solves problems, motivates and develops teams. Brainstorming motivates because it involves members of a team in bigger management issues, and it gets a team working together. However, brainstorming is not simply a random activity. Brainstorming needs to be structured and it follows brainstorming rules. The brainstorming process is described below, for which you will need a flip-chart or alternative. This is crucial as Brainstorming needs to involve the team, which means that everyone must be able to see what's happening. Brainstorming places a significant burden on the facilitator to manage the process, people's involvement and sensitivities, and then to manage the follow up actions. Use Brainstorming well and you will see excellent results in improving the organization, performance, and developing the team. Why should a team do Brainstorming? Brainstorming helps a team break free of old and ineffective ideas. This free-wheeling technique for generating ideas may produce some that seem half-baked, but it can lead to new and original solutions to problems. Some of the specific benefits of Brainstorming: Encourages creativity. It expands your thinking to include all aspects of a problem or a solution. You can identify a wide range of options. Rapidly produces a large number of ideas. By encouraging people to offer whatever ideas come to mind, it helps groups develop many ideas quickly. Equalizes involvement by all team members. It provides anon-judgmental environment that encourages everyone to offer ideas. All ideas are recorded. Fosters a sense of ownership. Having all members actively participate in the

Brainstorming process fosters a sense of ownership in the topic discussed and in the resulting activities. When the people on a team contribute personally to the direction of a decision, they are more likely to support it. Provides input to other tools. You may want to affinitize the brainstormed ideas. And, if appropriate, you can work with the team to reduce the number of ideas by Multi-voting.

Brainstorming is useful when you want to generate a large number of ideas about issues to tackle, possible causes of problems, approaches to use, or actions to take.

What are the ground rules for Brainstorming? For all participants to enjoy a creative and productive Brainstorming experience, the facilitator needs to review and get team members buy-in on the ground rules for the session. These are the rules: Active participation by all team members. Everyone expresses his or her ideas, even if they seem silly or far out. No discussioncriticisms, compliments, or other commentsduring the brainstorm. Build on ideas generated by other team members. All ideas written exactly as presented and displayed where everyone can see them. Set a time limit. Clarify ideas. After the brainstorm, go over the list to make sure that all team members understand the ideas. Remember that you are only clarifying the ideas, not making judgments about them. Combine ideas. See whether two or more ideas that appear to be the same can be combined. How is a Brainstorming session conducted? The recommended sequence for conducting Brainstorming and some suggestions for conducting the session effectively are provided below: Review the rules for Brainstorming. Describe how this session will be conducted by going over the points below. Set a time limit for Brainstorming, assign a timekeeper and data recorder, and start the clock. Brainstorming should be a rapid generation of ideas, so do it quickly; 5-15 minutes works well. If the time limit has expired and ideas are still being generated, you can extend the time limit at five-minute intervals. State the topic to be brainstormed in the form of a question. Write it down and post it where everyone can refer to it. Ensure that everyone understands it.

Collect everyones ideas. After allowing a few minutes for the participants to think about the question, ask them to give their ideas. Establish either a structured or unstructured format for calling out ideas: Structured: The facilitator establishes a rotation that enables each person in the group to contribute an idea in turn. Any individual who is not ready with an idea when his or her turn comes can pass until the next round, when he or she may offer an idea or pass again. Unstructured: Team members call out ideas as they come to mind. This method calls for close monitoring by the facilitator to enforce the ground rules and ensure that all team members have a chance to participate. Record ideas on a chart pack as they are called out, or collect ideas written by team members on post-its. Display the ideas where everyone can see them. Having the words visible to everyone at the same time avoids misinterpretation and duplication and helps stimulate creative thinking by other team members. When recording ideas, ensure that they are written down exactly as spoken by the team member. Dont interpret. Clarify each idea after all ideas have been presented, to ensure that all members have the same understanding of it. Pointing to each idea on the chart pack in turn, ask the participants whether they have any questions about its meaning. You may have to ask the contributor to explain the idea in a different way. Eliminate duplications. If two or more ideas appear to mean the same thing, you should try to combine them or eliminate the duplicates. Before you can wrap the like ideas into a single item or eliminate any items on the list, all of those who contributed the similar ideas must agree that they mean the same thing. Otherwise, they remain as separate items.

Brainstorming Techniques Clustering 1. Start with the main topic of your essay. Write that word in the center of your paper.

2. Write down any sub-topics that are connected to that main topic. Draw arrows to the sub-topics from the main topic. 3. If you have new ideas, connect those words to the appropriate sub-topic. Listing/Bulleting 1. Create a list of terms/ideas/concepts about the topic. 2. Create multiple lists depending on the purpose. Making a Cube Side One: Describe the topic. Side Two: Compare the topic. Side Three: Associate the topic. Side Four: Analyze the topic. Side Five: Apply the topic. Side Six: Argue for or against the topic. Venn Diagram 1. Draw two circles that connect, like this:

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2. List two topics above the circles. about each one. Tree Diagram Act like a Journalist -

3. Brainstorm about the topics what do they have in common and what is unique

This diagram has a central idea to which you add branches that focus on details.

It answers the questions on what, where, when, why and how

T-Diagram Using a T shape, list a category that you want to compare or contrast about a specific topic or topics. Do this for a variety of categories.

The Philosophy of Brainstorming By pushing past the obvious, brainstorming has penetrated the philosophy of the normative and gave birth to a whole new philosophy, the philosophy of spontaneity. Truly being spontaneous results to being more creative, Brainstorming is a creative thinking process that can be undertaken as a group activity, though there are a few cases where individuals also use same technique to generate broad, diverse and creative ideas especially targeted towards solving a specific problem. There are several variations of this technique but across all, there are a few key similarities. One of the supposed central characteristic of brainstorming is the spontaneity of the idea generation process. It would seem like the more spontaneous the brainstorming session is, the more legitimate it is, the more results or creative ideas we believe we can generate. It is this central idea that I really want to challenge. The main thought behind this spontaneity of idea generation is that it is assumed that when ideas are spontaneous, they are fresh, creative and uninhibited by existing thinking, pre-conceived ideas or previously tried solutions. As the brainstorming process is usually deployed where the problem is intractable, new or when the situation has grown to new dimensions, it is therefore thought that the spontaneity helps unlock new, creative and breakthrough ideas. However, when you really stop and think about it, where and when do you really get your best ideas? Where do you get your most creative and innovative thoughts? Does that coincide with a certain time of the day and is it when you do a certain activity? Does music or doodling help? Do you need to be by yourself to be most creative? Criticizing each others ideas; this is not even acceptable, if you go by the purist view of brainstorming. So if brainstorming does not enable the generation of breakthrough ideas and thinking, so where and how do we generate and get our best ideas from? I have asked this question to quite a few people and professionals for that matter and they were quite unanimous that creative ideas seldom happened in the office. It was when they were driving, sleeping, jogging, idling away at TV, taking a shower or a lazy bath or when reading a book in the other small room, having dinner with friends, etc. That is why a few of the worlds greatest ideas in the last century started in restaurants on paper napkins. Not surprisingly, it was when people were relaxed, at ease, not thinking about work or that problem situation that they were the most creative. Furthermore, it was often in the morning or late in the evenings, but rarely in the afternoon which is usually when we are at work, brainstorming. Studies and findings about how the brain works corroborates above responses to my question about when people feel they are the most creative and when they had breakthrough ideas and thoughts in the past. So, if this is true and research proves it is, why do we still carry on as if a brainstorming session will actually create some white space for us?

What organizations and individuals who know and are smart about this do is that rather than have a brainstorming session where we recycle ideas, they actually state the problem days and weeks in advance, so that their staff in their own way and time of being creative, will come into the room on that day with clear thinking and creative ideas on how to move things forward. Business Day, The Wisdom of Brainstorming the Contrarian View by Ted I. Theodore. http://businessdayonline.com/NG/index.php/work/35370-the-wisdom-of-brainstorming-acontrarian-view Being creative will always be a piece on the brainstorming philosophy, for brainstorming is not only the generation of ideas but the generation of the best ideas. According to Shaina Rozens article, Creativity Happens When You Throw out All Ideas, We employ this reach deeper brainstorming philosophy in our work and have found that some of the best ideas are the ones that come up after weve exhausted all our options. In fact, well often walk away from a long brainstorming session and come back the next day to rest our minds, digest some of the ideas, and come back with a clear head. Albert Einstein said, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results. Doing the same old brainstorming may yield an amazing idea once in a while, but more often than not, its just going to produce mediocre results for your client. However, when you spice up your routine and push past the obvious, you just might blow them away. http://fortyagency.com/insights/creativity-happens-when-you-throw-out-the-obvious-ideas The student-brainstormer shares one major characteristic with the student- bullshitter: she typically has not reflected deeply about the philosophical issue under discussion. But, unlike the bullshitter, she is eager to explore it by dialoging with others. This is because she is personally related to the topic. She takes it to be a live one; it means something to her as an individual. Kerry S. Walters, On Bullshitting and Brainstorming, 1988.

BRAINSTORMING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES Mind maps Mind mapping is the easiest and most popular form of brainstorming. Theyre especially effective if youre brainstorming on your own. A mind map is a graphical representation of all your ideas linked to and arranged around one central idea, problem or topic. There are no rules to it apart from jotting down everything that comes in your head. Your mind map can be hierarchical or in a tree branch format. You can either do mind map on a paper or use an online program like Mind Meister which lets you save, import and export your mind maps and comes with a free version as well. Brain dumps

Brain dumps are the most fun. Take a piece of paper or open up your word processor and start writing everything that comes to mind. Theres no rule saying it has to be related to the project. If youre brainstorming logo ideas for a client and find yourself thinking about lunch, note down what you want to have. Trust me, its much more productive this way. Otherwise, youll be stuck trying to come up with logos while your mouth is watering as youre thinking about food. Collaboration If you find yourself stuck for ideas, talk to someone and invite them on board for the project. Get them to brainstorm with you and compare notes. More often than not, your brainstorming partner will pick up something you might have missed, find a correlation or come up with a unique angle that you wouldnt have thought of on your own. If you dont want to partner up on the project, thats fine. You can still get them to collaborate with you for brainstorming as long as you return the favour. Reverse brainstorming Reverse brainstorming can work in two ways. The first is to visualize the result you want to achieve and then work your way back to the start. For example, if you want to write a blog post, then depending on how you write, your reverse thinking timeline will look something like: Respond to comments Publish post Format post Write post Create an outline of the post Write title

This technique helps you concentrate on areas that you may take for granted and highlights anything that you might have missed. In the example above, you might realize that you didnt pay attention to the formatting of the post and now know that you need to do The second way is to ask yourself the opposite question of what youre trying to achieve. First, ask yourself How do I achieve these results? and then ask How do I achieve the exact opposite? Lets take this blog post for example. When brainstorming the ideas for this post, I wanted to make this post exceptional. So I asked myself How can I make this post amazing? I drew up a

blank. I spent an hour looking at my outline for this post trying to figure out how to make it amazing. Then I decided to ask myself How can I make this post mediocre? The answer was staring me right in the face for both this question and the one above. I could make this post mediocre by simply explaining the tips and techniques for brainstorming and not giving any examples and not showing how to use these tips. Group sessions Group sessions are great for getting past ideas that have you stuck. If youre stuck at a particular section of your project, a group brainstorming session can be your ticket to clarity. The people in your group bring their own experience and knowledge that will help you find ideas for solving your problem. Its not necessary for the group members to be from the same field as you. As long as they have a rudimentary understanding of what youre trying to solve, their ideas can be invaluable. Sometimes, even input from someone who has no idea what youre talking about can help. Encourage them to ask questions and propose any idea that comes to their head even if it seems silly. Having a novices perspective on your problem may just be what you need to find a solution. Ask Questions Asking questions is a great way to come up with ideas and answers to your problems. Use prompters like what, where, who, when, and how. Suppose youre creating a website for a dentist, ask Who is the customer? The answer will be, people who have problems with their teeth. Next, ask, What kind of problems do they have? To which youll answer Toothaches, cavities, dentures, etc and so on until you have all information you need. Set A Time Limit Setting a time limit is a great technique if youre pressed for time or havent been able to brainstorm successfully. It forces you to focus and come up with as many ideas as it can in the given time. The duration of the time limit depends on you. The limit has to be short enough to instil a sense of urgency but long enough to allow you to record all your ideas. If youre trying this technique for the first time, start with 10 minutes. For bigger projects, break your tasks down in small chunks and then brainstorm them one by one. This way you wont feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the project.

SWOT Analysis A SWOT analysis is an analysis of your projects strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Doing a SWOT analysis will give you a clear idea of what you have, what you need, what you can capitalize on and what you need to improve.

Individual Brainstorming Individual brainstorming puts you in complete control of the creative process, and that means you are solely responsible for any and all results. This makes individual brainstorming a welcome challenge for some, and a source of concern for others. The Upside of Individual Brainstorming While individual brainstorming may not allow you take advantage of the accumulated experience of other members of your team, it will provide you with the freedom to express ideas without fear of ridicule or rejection. An idea that you may have been hesitant to bring up in a group brainstorming session may come to fruition during the individual brainstorming process, and that single idea may be the one that makes the process a success. In addition to providing you with added personal freedom, individual brainstorming also forces you to dig into the brainstorming process and give yourself over to it entirely. When an individual brainstorms with a group of people, he or she may be inclined to allow others to lead the process. When individual brainstorming is being conducted, there is no one else to rely on, which motivates the brainstormer to generate ideas and concepts on their own. While there is much to be said for group brainstorming, individual brainstorming is a process that shouldn't be overlooked. There is much to be said for having the freedom to manage your creative process without the influence of opinions, ideas or egos of others.

Group Brainstorming When it works, group brainstorming can be very effective for bringing the full experience and creativity of all members of the group to bear on an issue. When individual group members get stuck with an idea, another member's creativity and experience can take the idea to the next stage. Group brainstorming can therefore develop ideas in more depth than individual brainstorming.

The Upside of Group Brainstorming As a rule, people generally have creative boundaries that they stay within. Oftentimes, these boundaries are referred to as a "box" and when one begins to think "outside of the box" the creative process can really take off. Group brainstorming helps the members of the brainstorming team think outside of their boxes, opening creative doors for each member of the brainstorming team. Another advantage of group brainstorming is that it helps everyone involved to feel that theyve contributed to the end solution, and it reminds people that other people have creative ideas to offer. Brainstorming in a group can be risky for individuals. Valuable but strange suggestions may appear stupid at first sight. Because of this, you need to chair sessions tightly so that ideas are not crushed, and so that the usual issues with group problem-solving dont stifle creativity. Creating a diverse brainstorming team allows for multiple founts of knowledge and experience for the group brainstorming team to draw from. Group brainstorming can also act as a teambuilding exercise by making sure all members of the team express their opinions and contribute their ideas.

Approaches to Brainstorming The Stepladder Technique- This improves the contribution of quieter members of the group, by introducing ideas one person at a time.

The Stepladder Technique is a simple tool that manages how members enter the decisionmaking group. It encourages all members to contribute on an individual level before being influenced by anyone else. This results in a wider variety of ideas, it prevents people from "hiding" within the group, and it helps people avoid being "stepped on" or overpowered by stronger, louder group members. Brainwriting - Brainwriting uses a written approach to brainstorming to generate and develop ideas. This helps you get ideas from all individuals, and develop these ideas in depth.

It is similar to brainstorming they're both methods for generating ideas and solutions for a problem however it gives everyone equal opportunity to participate, and it enables all group members to think without any blocking.'

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Brain-netting - This is similar to Brainwriting, but uses an electronic document stored on a central server. The Crawford's Slip Approach The Crawford's Slip Approach helps you get plenty of ideas from all participants in your session, and gives you a view of the popularity of each idea.

The method simply involves collating input from people on slips of paper (nowadays often on sticky notes). Not only does this help you generate a wide variety of solutions, it also helps people get involved and feel that their contributions are valued. Writing rather than speaking during the session can have added advantages: it helps people to think freely without interruption, and it levels the playing field between quieter people and more outspoken participants.

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