Brainstorming is a method of generating ideas and sharing knowledge to solve a particular commercial or technical problem, in which participants are encouraged to think without interruption. Brainstorming is a group activity where each participant shares their ideas as soon as they come to mind. At the conclusion of the session, ideas are categorised and ranked for follow-on action.
When planning a brainstorming session it is important to define clearly the topic to be addressed. A topic which is too specific can constrict thinking, while an ill-defined topic will not generate enough directly applicable ideas. The composition of the brainstorming group is important too. It should include people linked directly with the subject as well as those who can contribute novel and unexpected ideas. It can comprise staff from inside or outside the organisation.
To ensure a productive session and one to which all present contribute, there are several brainstorming 'rules' -
- Encourage novel and innovative ideas, however odd they may first appear
- The quantity of ideas is more important than quality, so while ideas are shared with the group they are not discussed or criticised in detail; this is reserved for a later stage
- Build on the ideas put forward by others
- Every person and every idea has equal worth
- Each idea generated belongs to the group rather than the individual who thought of it
A brainstorming session is led by a facilitator who introduces the topic and the above 'rules'. The group then begins to generate and share ideas. These are recorded on white-boards, flip-charts, Post-it® notes, etc. This section of the meeting usually lasts no longer than thirty or forty minutes. The ideas are then categorised and ranked by the group. Follow-up actions are agreed and the meeting closes.
Subsequently, the ideas should be captured more formally and circulated to the group for review. Electronic mind-maps are particularly useful here as they aid visualisation of how the ideas interrelate. Once categorised and mapped, the ideas are more easily evaluated and prioritised for action.
Using the above techniques, TWI forms multidisciplinary teams for brainstorming exercises both internally and for Industrial Member companies.
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