A Conversation for Brainstorming
Woodpigeon Started conversation Nov 2, 1999
I do have a suggestion for improving the brainstorming process which came up as a result of a recent brainstorming session.
During brainstorming it is not unusual to come up with 50 or 60 different ideas or suggestions. Many of them are rubbish, but nevertheless essential for getting people thinking creatively. They can be excluded immediately. It could also be said however that 95% of the ideas proposed are a bit half-baked at this stage, so just selecting them as the agreed idea might be very premature. In addition, possibly 30% to 50% of the ideas will be quite good, so doing a rigid selection process on these ideas can potentially get rid of good potential ideas before they have been given due consideration.
What is needed at this stage is not selection, but a creative grouping session, to look at all ideas as a whole, and then to get people to start developing solutions from these ideas which may encompass many, some, one, or even none of the ideas written down on the charts. The solution process can be carried out individually or in very small groups. I don't think it works too well if you get a large group to work on this process.
In the solution phase the participants have a lot of material available from the initial brainstorming session. What is required is to start grouping together ideas into a workable solution. The solutions that people come up with can then be discussed, and if necessary rejected or selected, particularly if there are competing alternatives.
Example : Say you are given the job of saving lives from aircraft disasters. You know that most aircraft crashes happen over water, are caused by a catastrophic systems failure, and that the plane is usually intact before it crashes (i.e. they do not normally blow up in mid-air).
The ideas proposed from the brainstorming session include : 1) Giving the planes a pointed nozzle so they can cut the water like a needle, 2) Putting in a stabilising system so the planes will always upright themselves, 3) Giving everybody parachutes, 4) Giving the plane a parachute 5) Having a second stability control system so in the case of a loss of control this control system activates, 5) incorporating airbags into plane seats.
In a selection process, (like the passengers) only a few of these ideas will survive. The idea that survives might be good, but on its own it may have many defects and could be
In a solution process, you start to combine the ideas presented into a workable solution. "Why not install parachutes on planes, and incorporate a stability system which uprights a plane if it goes into a tailspin, where the stability system is only activated when the main control system fails?" - That's a solution. It's a combination of non-conflicting ideas that can stand on their own.
One other point, the solution process is not just a grouping exercise. It should be a creative exercise. The point is to come up with a really good, workable idea that can be stated and explained easily. New ideas can be added or conceived when developing the solution.
When all the solutions from the participants have been developed, the group can then use voting and consensus techniques to whittle the list down to an agreed solution.
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