Publish on: 26 Aug 2015

Brainstorming is an effective way to discover incredible new ideas and take your life and your business in incredible new directions. It is a very powerful tool designed to generate a large number of creative ideas in a very short period of time. This technique encourages participation, the generation of free flowing ideas, and opens people’s thinking and perspective on issue of interest.

In nearly any situation and with nearly any issue, brainstorming can perform miracles as long as the situation or issue is clear and specific. If you have multiple problems that need solving, multiple goals to achieve, then consider holding separate brainstorming sessions for each of them.

When should Brainstorming be used?

Brainstorming can prove to be an ideal means when a group needs a creative and comprehensive list of ideas or problems. They help identify driving and restraining forces, opportunities for improvement, causes, effect and solutions to address a problem. Nevertheless, it is imperative to provide equal opportunity to each member of the group to voice out their ideas in the course of the session.

Once a problem has been identified for the brainstorming session, it is important to decide upon which brainstorming technique to use to start generating solutions.

The following techniques may be used:

1. Round Robin technique
The basic structure of a Round robin session begins with a central theme, question, or issue which the facilitator identifies for discussion. Arranged in a circle, participants begin by considering the question. One participant is selected to lead off the process by offering a single thought or reaction, either out-loud or on a piece of paper/index card. In a verbal format, the rest of the participants remain quiet during his or her answer. Once this first participant is finished contributing, the participant sitting directly to his or her right contributes an additional point, idea, or thought. Working clockwise around the circle, each participant either speaks or writes a single idea - ideally one which has not yet been mentioned - until a full circle has been completed or the time reserved for the exercise has passed. During this period, the facilitator records insights and central points raised. The session then concludes with a group discussion.

2. Freewheeling technique
This technique is unstructured allowing participants to add ideas spontaneously. The disadvantage of this technique is that if some members within the group are shy, it happens that they won’t participate in sharing ideas. On the other hand, others within the group can dominate the brainstorming session if they have many ideas and not giving the chance to others to participate.

3. Reverse technique
Reverse brainstorming solves the problems of direct questioning and the singular approach by exploring multiple factors in reverse. This encourages more creative thought. Instead of asking what a problem is and how to fix it, reverse brainstorming asks “What causes the problem?” or “What achieves the exact opposite effect of what we’re looking for?” Doing so encourages more participation and outside-the-box thinking. With reverse brainstorming, the question is not “How do I solve this?” but rather, “How do I cause this to be a problem?”

There are five steps in the Reverse Brainstorming Process:
1. Identify the problem plainly and write it down.
2. Reverse the issue. For example, instead of asking “How can I help?” ask, “How can I make it worse?”
3. Brainstorm to figure out all possible reverse solutions. Reject nothing. Criticize nothing.
4. Flip the reverse solutions to create real fixes for the actual issue.
5. Evaluate these solutions and decide if a real solution can be formed.

Can you list some difficulties that you or your company faces when dealing with the brainstorming technique?

1 Comment
Nice and informative article. The techniques are well applicable in classroom discussions and strategic meetings, and would be very helpful for convenors.
by Suraj Juddoo on 31 Aug 2015
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