The main objective of a brainstorming session is to gather ideas from all participants without criticism or judgement. A successful brainstorm session allows people to be as creative as possible without restricting their ideas in any way. It is a “free form” method which generally promotes excitement, equal participation, commitment to decisions, and great solutions to problems. I have recently been involved in a few brainstorming sessions and it appears that many people are unaware of or have forgotten the technique.

Some basic rules to follow for brainstorming:
  1. Identify a facilitator to enforce the rules
  2. Identify and agree on a selection process
  3. Have someone who will write down or document the ideas (pausing only for clarifying a response).
  4. Clearly define the subject/problem of the brainstorm. This is often done in the form of a “how, what or why” questions. Example, “What are the best possible ways to train our customers on the new product release in the next month?”
  5. Allow the team some time to digest the question.
  6. Allow the group to call out their ideas. Don’t hold back any ideas.
  7. Have the facilitator ensure that no discussion or rejection of ideas occurs. Not even “moans and groans”. Keep moving on to the next idea…

Once the idea collection is complete you can then move on to the discussion and clarification phase. All ideas should be presented back to the team and the facilitator should ask for any questions regarding the list of items. In many cases the person who submitted the idea can answer the question but further clarification and definition could come from other team members.

After the questions have been answered attempt to condense the list as much as possible. Some ideas may be able to be combined. However, if the originator of the idea does not agree that their item should be combined and believes it is different then leave them separated.

You can now have members rank order or weight order the  ideas by a variety of methods. You can have them provide point values to each idea (1-10, 10 being best). The facilitator can tally them up. The idea or ideas with the highest values can be selected as the top choice or choices. Or, they can rank order the ideas and you can summarize the tally based on rankings. Use whatever method works best and is agreed upon by the team.

If the team agrees with the item/s that got the highest values or best rankings then you may be able to end the discussion and the team will then decide on next steps. If members do not agree, then further discussion will be needed to reach consensus on the ideas to be used or put forward.

Al Senzamici, PMP
Program Manager
ImageSource, Inc.


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