In this post we will be providing you with an overview and basics procedure for brainstorming that will help you get started.

What Is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is an individual or group method for generating ideas, increasing creative efficacy, or finding solutions to problems.

The basic procedure for group brainstorming involves:

1. Selecting a group of three to ten participants with different backgrounds.

2. Posing a clear problem, question, or topic to the group.

3. Asking the group to generate solutions or ideas with no criticism or attempts to limit the type and number of ideas. This is the “divergent” phase in which you want as many ideas as possible without any censorship.

4. Discussing, critiquing, and possibly prioritizing the brainstorming results for later action. This last step is often called the “convergent” phase where there is a
winnowing of all the ideas into the ones that are judged as most applicable to a problem.

Three fundamental principles for group brainstorming

1. Aim for sheer quantity. Quantity, not quality, is the goal of brainstorming. The primary criterion for the success of brainstorming is the sheer number of ideas that are generated.

Anything that limits the number of ideas is contrary to the intent of brainstorming. For example, brainstorming participants should not be taking their own notes because that keeps them (and those around them) from generating ideas. Participants should not be monitoring e-mail (so easy now with wireless connections, smartphones, and tablets!) or checking out Facebook during brainstorming. After the brainstorming session, you can criticize, rate, rank, or vote on what makes a good idea, but during brainstorming the focus should be on getting as many ideas as possible.

2. Defer judgment about the quality of ideas. Do not criticize the ideas of others either implicitly (e.g., through facial expressions or other nonverbal behaviors) or explicitly (saying “Wow! That is a crazy idea!”).

3. Encourage new and wild ideas. New ideas can be generated by synthesizing ideas, stretching ideas (bigger, faster, smaller), applying metaphors, or improving on existing ideas. Wild ideas that may not be directly applicable to a brainstorming topic can serve as triggers for ideas that are potentially useful. Ideas from science fiction stories or movies, for example, might seem odd, but many existing products are filled with concepts like teleportation, invisibility, and the ability to travel back in time.