Brainstorming is a method for generating ideas in a group situation. Teams and departments should use brainstorming when:

  • Determining possible causes and / or solutions to problems.
  • Planning out the steps of a project.
  • Deciding which problem (or opportunity) to work on.

Running a Brainstorming Session

Provide a time limit for the session. Generally 30 minutes is sufficient. Identify one or more recorders. The recorders' job is to write all ideas down (where everyone can see them, such as on a flipchart or overhead transparency) as they are voiced.

Choose either:

  • a freewheeling format (share ideas all at once, list all ideas as they are shouted out) or
  • a round robin format (everyone takes a turn offering an idea, anyone can pass on a turn, continue until there are no more ideas, all ideas are listed as they are offered).

Establish the ground rules.

Ground Rules

  1. Don't edit what is said and remember not to criticise ideas.
  2. Go for quantity of ideas at this point; narrow down the list later.
  3. Encourage wild or exaggerated ideas (creativity is the key).
  4. Build on the ideas of others (e.g. one member might say something that "sparks" another member's idea.

End the session when - everyone has had a chance to participate, no more ideas are being offered, you have made a "last call" for ideas, you have thanked all the participants.


Next steps

  • Prioritise your ideas to help you decide where to start.
  • Sort large amounts of information according to common themes (use e.g. affinity diagrams - post-its, one idea on each, all generated by individuals in response to a goal statement, within a limited time frame, sorted into groupings).
  • Remember brainstormed ideas may be based on opinion and data may need to be gathered to support or prove ideas.


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