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Brainstorming in Business

By: Lisa Koning - Updated: 7 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Brainstorming In Business

Brainstorming is a technique that can be used in business to generate ideas and solve problems. It is a creative technique that encourages out of the box thinking, coming up with ideas that may not normally be considered.

Brainstorming can be used to find new directions for businesses as well as focusing on a specific problem or opportunity.

Why Brainstorm?

Brainstorming is about generating many ideas and solutions. It is not about analysis or for decision making (this comes later). The aim of the session is quantity of ideas not quality.

The Group

Keeping the group to between four and twelve will allow everyone the opportunity to contribute.

It helps if the group already knows each other and is relatively comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.

The members of the group do not need to be experts in the field. In fact it can often be helpful to have a diverse group with varying expertise and experience.

Carefully consider the mix of people in the group. Particularly if you have varying levels of seniority or management, some people may feel less able to speak openly.

Understand the Opportunity or Problem

It’s essential that everyone in the group has a clear and thorough understanding of the topic of the brainstorming session. If possible, provide the group with background to the opportunity or problem prior to attending. Continue to probe until the root cause of the problem, or the barriers to the opportunity, is understood. Try to define the problem in one clear sentence.

Setting Some Ground Rules

It’s important to establish some ground rules with the group before beginning:
  • Everyone should be open to the thoughts and ideas of others
  • No one should be precious about their own idea
  • Everyone’s ideas should be given due consideration
  • Everyone should be supportive of each other
  • No one’s idea will be criticised
  • All ideas are welcome – no matter how seemingly crazy

The Brainstorming Session

  • Have a Facilitator. This role is to record all the ideas of the group, preferably on charts or boards around the room.
  • Create a relaxed atmosphere. Consider starting off with a fun exercise to warm the group up and allow them to get to know each other.
  • Promote a friendly environment that welcomes all ideas, no matter how wild and off the wall.
  • Encourage everyone to contribute ideas. The aim is to get as many ideas as possible.
  • Evaluation comes later. The brainstorming session aims to capture ideas and time should not be spent during this session for evaluation (this comes later).
  • The session should be fast-paced and fun. Try to encourage the group to build on each other’s ideas.
  • Limit the session to 45 – 60 minutes. Brainstorming can be exhausting and if there is much discussion schedule in another meeting.

After the Session

Note down all the ideas generated from the session and organise them into related groups. Send a copy of the ideas to the entire group and ask them each to select the top five ideas. Get each person to elaborate why and explain the potential of each idea.

In Conclusion

Brainstorming sessions are a good way to generate ideas and encourage approaches and solutions that may not have previously been considered. It’s important to have the right mix of people in the group and to ensure everyone feels open to contribute in a supportive environment. The session should be fast-paced with lots of ideas coming forth. Evaluation doesn’t happen during the session but comes later.

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