Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Brainstorming Sessions

The more I sit through Brainstorming sessions the more I realize the lack of understanding in the industry of fundamental principles of brainstorming. Brainstorming is supposed to be used as a tool to generate large number of ideas in a short span of time and not to find solutions to all issues. In fact it's not a forum to show ones knowledge or lack of it. But we all have seen how many mindless discussions in name of brainstorming that take up valuable time out of a productive day.

Here are some golden rules to follow in a brainstorming session.

1. Have a problem statement or focus around which to do brainstorming.
2. When calling for a team for brainstorming session make sure there is a specified moderator and scribe.
3. Moderator should not be participating in the discussion, the scribe can clarify what idea the person suggesting but cannot impose his/her own thoughts.
4. There is nothing like a silly idea or suggestion. However, all proposed ideas should be around the decided focus.
5. All participants should contribute. Loud mouths should not be permitted or allowed and should asked politely to sit quite.

The brainstorming session is typically made of 3 parts.

1. Idea generation.
2. Elaboration
3. Idea ranking for action

1. Idea Generation - Typically 15-20 minutes of idea generation where everyone suggests what idea they are proposing. No one is allowed to dominate the session. Moderators should make sure the ideas are listed visibly. No idea is bad or turned down unless it's not around the specific focus of the discussion.
2. Elaboration - Typically about 30-40 minutes where in everyone is allowed to speak for their ideas but not to turn it down. The intent should be particualrly here to justify their view points or group similar ideas suggested by two different people.
3. Idea ranking - This is simple voting process where in most liked ideas are prioritized over the relatively lower priority ideas as suggested by the team. This should take no more than 15 minutes.

Following these simple rules can definitely make brainstorming sessions enjoyable and converging. Wished the simple principles be understood well in corporate settings in general to be effective.