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Idea Brainstorming: A Compelling Technique

When organizations are looking for a fresh viewpoint on a critical problem or opportunity they time and again turn to an idea brainstorming exercise to get their juices flowing!

Idea brainstorming with colleagues is a compelling technique. It enables the identification of new thoughts, solves problems, motivates and develops employees and teams. It is used for new product or service ideas, process improvements, marketing campaigns, new system design, employee satisfaction programs, and virtually any other topic that would benefit from creative group input, positive assessment and collaboration.

Brainstorming works best with a varied group of people. Participants typically gather from various activities across the organization (and externally) with different backgrounds and skill sets. Even in specialist areas, outsiders typically bring innovative ideas that can inspire local participants.

Brainstorming Myths

The existence of legendary myths surrounding brainstorming may present impediments to success and should be refuted during planning and conducting of the brainstorming exercise. They include:

  • Let’s get only the known experts to participate and brainstorm a problem or opportunity
  • I am not a creative person and will not be a significant contributor
  • That is a brainless or ridiculous idea and should not be raised and discussed
  • Criticism will help improve the idea(s) generated from the participants
  • That’s a good idea. Let’s run with it now without discussion
  • It isn’t broke so let’s not  fix it

A favorite quotation shown below from Edward de Bono, (creator of the concept and tools of lateral thinking) provides insight into the value of ideas.

“It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.”

Brainstorming Rules

There are four basic rules in brainstorming that are intended to reduce the social inhibitions and conflict that typically occur in groups and therefore stimulate the generation of new and creative ideas. The successful use of these rules enable dynamic synergy that should dramatically increase the creativity of the entire group participating in the exercise. The rules include:

1. Focus on quantity

2. No criticism

3. Unusual ideas are welcome

4. Combine and enrich ideas

Knowledge Compass Approach

The Knowledge Compass Idea Brainstorming Exercise is supported with a formal and structured methodology, techniques, and tools. The high level approach is outlined below:

1. Identify and quantify the problem (s) and / or opportunity (s) and objectives

2. Create a background memo on the problem and/or opportunity

3. Select diversified participants

4. Create a list of lead questions for the exercise session

5. Determine criteria and scoring systems for evaluating ideas generated

6. Conduct session; use one or a combination of below techniques:

  • Nominal group technique
  • Group passing technique
  • Team idea mapping method
  • Electronic brainstorming
  • Directed brainstorming
  • Individual brainstorming

7. Within above technique(s):

  • Identify and document ideas generated
  • Categorize, condense, combine, refined and enrich ideas into an ‘answers’
  • Access ‘answer’s and analyze effects and results on real value, ROI, risk, cost, and change
  • Priortize ‘answers’ options and rank list as appropriate
  • Select and approve ‘answer’s for development
  • Agree action and timescale for development of individual solutions

 8. Create action plan on development of solution (s) to problem (s) and or  opportunity (s)

The Bottom Line

Use idea brainstorming effectively and you will see exceptional results in leveraging and exploiting oportunities and mitigating problems. 

For example would the below provide a significant value to your organization?

  • What if you created a new business model in a value-producing market segment?
  • What if you developed new ways of being more efficient?
  • What if you developed a new creative product or solution which became the market leader?
  • What if you could cut down process activities and bureaucracy?
  • What if you improved mission-critical decision-making?
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