Before we run through how to run a brainstorm, I wanted to address the issue of using the word 'brainstorm'.
Is brainstorming offensive?- It has been suggested and indeed I have been challenged on the use of the word Brainstorming, in particular it being offensive - you may find this guidance note from Epilepsy Action useful. Because of this guidance, I do use the word, but I am sensitive to the fact that some people can find it offensive, and will refer them to Epilepsy Action.
So let us know explore the most effective way to run a brainstorm session. These rules will enable you to engage people in the process.
I recommend the following stages and timings to ensure energy and control of the brainstorm.
STAGE ONE - SETUP
STAGE TWO - BRAINSTORM
STAGE THREE - CONSOLIDATE
STAGE ONE - SETUP - 2 minutes- Setup and explain the objective and process.
- Allocate the appropriate roles in the group, chairperson, timekeeper, scribe etc.
- Agree the objective of the brainstorm
- Agree the time allocation
- Place the appropriate heading on the flip chart or board
- Start the ideas coming and record them so as they are visible to the whole group
- Use creativity techniques to stimulate a wider range of ideas
- Follow the ground rules
- After the brainstorm evaluate the ideas against the original objective getting group members to elaborate on their idea if clarification is required.
- Ideas can also be grouped into classifications and the most appropriate selected.
STAGE TWO - BRAINSTORM -
Run the brainstorm - I recommend you running a brainstorm for a maximum of 5 minutes, so that the energy of the brainstorm doesn't dwindle.
After 5 minutes, if there are still ideas flowing then you can continue in blocks of 30 seconds
Before running the brainstorm explain the following ground rules to ensure smooth running and participation.
- No criticism - do not allow anyone to criticise any ideas in the brainstorm, leave to the consolidation stage.
- Freewheel - allow ideas to come from anyone
- Creativity and volume - have a high intensity
- Record all ideas - capture everything said *
- No discussion - don't allow discussion on ideas or off topic.
*I personally capture exactly what people say. For example if they say 'Meet with marketing team', I write 'Meet with marketing team' not 'Marketing team'. The reason for this is when it comes to consolidating ideas people will recognise their ideas if written verbatim, rather than my interpretation.
*However, I do not capture anything inflammatory or discriminatory
STAGE THREE - CONSOLIDATE -
Consolidation of ideas - Once complete consolidate the ideas into a action plan.
This means have a discussion on the ideas to agree what you will take forward. Ideas can be critiqued at this stage.
Variations on a theme - If you use negative brainstorming ie ‘how can we really mess up customer service’ it often stimulates more ideas! Then review the opposites to compile an action plan.
DO NOT LEAVE the results of these negative brainstorming sessions on display to the public!