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  • Writer's pictureJanice Clines

Brainstorming Techniques That Work

Brainstorming is a great way to generate ideas on a specific topic within a group setting. I recently attended a webinar which discussed techniques for tapping into positive and outside-the-box thinking. This encourages individuals to take ownership of the project because they have played a role in the creative process and/or developmental stages.

Getting started

Before you start your brainstorm session, set some ground rules to get things on the right track.

  1. Inform participants of topic prior to brainstorm. This allows them to think about the subject and to form ideas.

  2. Assign a specific person to take notes.

  3. Ideas are recorded exactly as they are said.

  4. All ideas are written down and not evaluated.

  5. Everyone is given equal chance to participate.

  6. Encourage idea metamorphosis.

Once the ground rules have been set, you are ready to begin!

Techniques for Success

Below are 10 brainstorming techniques that are sure to get results for your next group project:

Nominal Group Technique

  • This is a facilitated meeting where each participant speaks once then control is passed to the next participant. Basically, he who has the stick is allowed to speak.

  • Once everyone has had the opportunity to speak the cycle is repeated until all topics are exhausted.

  • Encourages all participants to input their ideas because each person is called on one at a time.

Affinity Diagramming

  • This technique is used to organize a large number of ideas or solutions. Categories are written on a board and each participant writes their idea on a sticky note or card and place it on the board under the appropriate category.

Mind mapping

  • This is a free form diagram used to visually represent thoughts and concepts related to a single topic. One topic is written on a board and sub topics branch out from it.

  • This can also translate easily to paper in bullet point form.

Time Travel Look Back

  • Thinking forward one year, looking back at the brainstorm you’re doing now, and discuss what ideas and decision you came up with today.

  • Brainstorming in a way of looking back on what you wish you would have said or done if you were in the future.

  • Select the best alternatives based on your future perspectives.

Wouldn’t It Be Great If…

  • This technique uses the “wouldn’t it be great” to start the sentence to the brainstorm, which raises the motivation in the room resulting in positive and energetic ideas.

f Not That, What Else…

  • This technique drives the ideation process by continually asking for one more additional idea.

  • Having numbers listed below the idea will encourage the participants to fill the numbers with ideas instead of leaving them blank.

Worst Idea First

  • This technique begins with having the participants brainstorm by saying the worst ideas first. This premise removes all inhibitions and gives them permission to think outside the box.

Brain Writing

  • This technique has the participants write down their ideas instead of saying them out loud. Then the papers are passed from participant to participant till you get your idea back.

  • This technique can be done anonymously or works well for participants who work remotely, ideas are shared via email.

Travelers and Residence or Pioneers and Settlers

  • This technique is designed for large groups. The large group is portioned into smaller groups then one designated person will travel from group to group sharing the previous ideas with them. The traveler will repeat this until he/she has traveled to all of the tables.

Fill the Gap

  • This technique defines where you are now, where you want to be in the future and brainstorming on the best way to fill the gap between the two.

Brainstorming is easy and, with the proper techniques, can lead to positive and successful ideas for any project. For help with leading your next brainstorming session, contact AOE today!



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