Brainstorming Meetings

Brainstorming Meetings to generate ideas

Brainstorming Meetings

Since its development in the 1950s, brainstorming has become one of the most common techniques used in meetings to generate ideas. However, despite its clear benefits, brainstorming meetings has its faults and many improvements have been suggested and analysed.

Rules for Brainstorming Meetings

Alex Osborn, the inventor of the term ‘Brainstorming’, established four rules.
1. Focus on quantity - the more ideas, the better.
2. Never criticise another person’s idea during the brainstorming session.
3. Welcome unusual ideas. Challenge your assumptions and ask ‘what if …?’ questions.
4.Try to combine and improve ideas.This is the real power of brainstorming. …’.

single problem

It is most effective when there is a single, specific problem to solve, and creative thinking is required. Brainstorming meetings would be less effective when there are many problems to solve. It would be inappropriate when simple decisions are needed: there is a time to come up with creative ideas, and there is a time to stop creating and start deciding and implementing.

possible problems

Researchers have identified many possible problems in brainstorming meetings, all of which suggest that it is far from perfect.
1. Free rider.
2. Social matching ideas.
3. Personal contribution.
4. Evaluation apprehension.
5. Blocking.
6. Illusion of group productivity.

“Capital isn’t that important in business. Experience isn’t that important. You can get both of these things. What is important, is ideas.”
Harvey Firestone

Brainstorming meetings are excellent ways to generate ideas – more important that capital and experience…

Frequently asked questions

Brainstorming is a creative process where a person or group sits down with a problem in mind and spontaneously contributes solutions to that problem. Brainstorming methods can be as simple as making lists or as detailed as making a mind map. It usually happens during the beginning stages of a project, and its goal is to end up with a large number of ideas to help define the problem and all of the possible creative solutions. You can brainstorm using a whiteboard, online software, or just a piece of paper and a pen.

“Brainstorming is defined as “the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem”.

“Keep Focused on the Task at Hand – If you’re part of a growing business, with many exciting opportunities, then that is fantastic – but it can be very detrimental to successful brainstorming. If you’re holding a brainstorming meeting for a particular issue, perhaps around themes for a coming event, then ensure that your discussions stay focused on that, and don’t veer into unchartered territory like product ideas for the coming year. Keep confusion to a minimum.”

” – Australian Institute of Business

  • Avoid Judging Ideas Immediately – People are far more likely to share their ideas and visions in a comfortable and supportive space – arrange to include all ideas, record all ideas, and make the time to judge them on their merits at a later date. People need to feel able to share any ideas they may have – create an inclusive and non-judgemental space to accommodate. 
  • Encourage a Little ‘Crazy’ – In a similar vein to the point above, remember to encourage a few wild ideas from your staff and stakeholders. These so-called ‘crazy’ ideas can be adjusted later, if required – but remember that many of the world’s best inventions and creations came from a bizarre idea. Be open to exploring everything.
  • Think of Ideas as Building Blocks – Nobody comes into a brainstorming session with the world’s most perfect, affordable, useful and marketable product or service in mind. Allow your brainstormers to build on each other’s ideas – often, another person’s idea is what sparks someone else’s creativity. Many ideas can be combined and integrated to great effect… allow the idea to develop organically wherever possible.

The above ideas are from the Australian Institute of Business

“Disadvantages of brainstorming technique are:
1.Some dump ideas may also be accepted for evaluation.
2.Overlapping of ideas is possible.
3.Some emotional and environmental mental blocks are possible e.g. unease with chaos, fear of criticism, and perpetuation of incorrect assumptions.”
For more on this topic read the post in TEchMyEducation

“Some people may say that the most important part of brainstorming is the ability to come up with creative ideas, but this end result is still linked to the need for a lack of judgement or criticism during the session. Creating an environment where all ideas are welcome is absolutely essential to the success of any brainstorming session because if participants feel their ideas will be shunned or laughed at they will naturally hesitate to volunteer them. Therefore, the best way to get the most out of a brainstorming session is to make it clear to participants that all ideas, regardless of how outrageous, are welcome and that judgement should be left at the door.”

Read more in the Bright Hub article

Answers - Exercise 1

  1. focus on quantity
  2. withhold criticism
  3. welcome unusual ideas
  4. combine and improve ideas
  5. free rider problem
  6. social matching effect
  7. personal contribution
  8. evaluation apprehension
  9. blocking
  10. illusion of group productivity

Answers - Exercise 2

Question 1.

  • Very unusual ideas: This might sound crazy, but …; Just thinking aloud for a moment, but …; It probably wouldn’t work in practice, but …; I haven’t thought this through yet, but …; In an ideal world, …
  • Relating ideas to previous suggestions: You’ve just reminded me of something.; Just to build on that idea, …; I wonder if we could combine your idea with something that was said earlier.

Question 2.

  • Infinitive: Why don’t we …?; I suppose we could …; I think we should …; We could always …; I don’t suppose we could …; I wonder if it would be possible to …; It might be possible to …; Could we …?
  • -ing form: How about …?
  • Past tense: Wouldn’t it be nice if we …; What if we …?
  • More confident: Why don’t we …?; I suppose we could …; I think we should …; How about …?; We could always …; Could we …?
  • Less confident: I don’t suppose we could …; Wouldn’t it be nice if we …; What if we …?; I wonder if it would be possible to …; It might be possible to ….

Question 3.

Upload a copy of your answers in the form below. (or upload under ‘Assignments’). Remember to tell me that it is for Question 3 – Exercise 2 in Lesson 5.3

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