Never Run Out of Ideas – Effective Brainstorming and Brain-writing Techniques
There are literally dozens of ways of Brainstorming. However, selecting the best depends on some factors, which include the number of participants, objective, and time-frame. The procedures can be different, but Brainstorming follows basic rules for making these effective. Facilitators, for example, can employ several brainstorming techniques to generate the most possible number of creative ideas.
Brainstorming is not rocket science. It is a straightforward procedure that can be performed by almost anybody. If you’re running out of ideas and searching for that inspirational spark, take a quick look below check the most popular brainstorming techniques.
Popular Brainstorming Techniques
If you’re still finding yourself short of new ideas, then mixing it up and using different brainstorming techniques could be the answer. By using a variety of approaches and perspectives to Brainstorming, you could increase the number of ideas you generate.
Technique 1: Round-Robin Brainstorming
This brainstorming technique utilizes the collective power of a group to generate ideas. This method might appear like other group-based Brainstorming but differs by letting each participant voice their ideas without being interrupted. This process ensures that everyone in the group is awarded equal opportunity to showcase their idea. Participants can submit their ideas verbally or in a written form.
The brainstorming session starts by introducing a central point of discussion or question. Participants are then arranged in a circle with a facilitator directing the process. One participant leads by offering his idea while others remain quiet and await their turn.
Technique 2: Reverse Brainstorming
This is a popular brainstorming technique used for improving products and services. Unlike typical Brainstorming, reverse Brainstorming looks for possible ways thinks could get worse or why the problem has no solution. By allowing ideas to flow freely and without validation, it is possible to come up with solutions that were not possible by simply answering questions. This gives you a new perspective on solving problems by letting you approach it from a different angle.
Technique 3: Role Storming
Developed in the 1980s by Rick Griggs, this brainstorming technique lets participants take a different personality to help them generate new ideas. By letting people take a different role or personality, it lets them come up with ideas which were not possible with their current personality. It also encourages people to freely voice their ideas because they feel that these ideas are not entirely their own and that of another person.
Technique 4: Stepladder Technique
This brainstorming technique is ideal for encouraging contributions for quiet participants. The session starts by introducing the problem to all the participants in the room. Everyone is then sent out of the room except for two individuals. The two people then begin the brainstorming session for a predetermined time. One individual is then asked to enter the room to contribute. Each new idea is then shared and discussed before allowing another individual to enter. The process continues until everybody in the group has had the opportunity to contribute to their idea.
Technique 5: Charrette Brainstorming
The Charrette method of Brainstorming is a more complex process of idea generation that involves a large group of people. It involves several groups of participants simultaneously working on a solution or new idea. A problem, for example, is broken into several pieces with each being assigned to a group.
The ideas developed by each group are passed to another group where it is discussed and refined. At the end of the brainstorming session, ideas have been passed several times, and a consensus can then be reached by using the best ideas generated.
Technique 6: Online Brainstorming
At its core, online Brainstorming is simply generating new ideas by letting individuals share these over the internet. The biggest advantage of this brainstorming technique is its ability to elicit ideas from several people without them physically being together in a single room. By using online tools or software, people are free to share their ideas regardless of their location or time of day.
Technique 7: Star bursting Technique
Star bursting takes a different approach to Brainstorming by encouraging participants to first ask questions before providing answers. This is great for businesses planning to launch a new product, service, or planning products and services in the future. The problem or the point of discussion is placed in the “center.” Questions are then asked (where, why, who, what, how, when) and start to shoot out from the center. The purpose of the discussion is to generate as many questions for each point of the star. After formulating the questions, participants then formulate answers or solutions. At the end of the brainstorming session, all points are discussed, plans are formulated and implemented.
What are the disadvantages of Brainstorming?
Brainstorming has always been a great way of generating ideas. But it too has its disadvantages. Below are some of the difficulties and disadvantages often observed in brainstorming sessions. This can help you identify common problems and stop it before it negatively affects the results of Brainstorming.
- Brainstorming with a large group gives you the best possibility of generating the most ideas just because of the sheer number of participants – at least on paper. But this is often not true. Brainstorming in a large group makes it hard for everybody to remain focused. It is difficult to monitor individual participants and check if they are actively engaged.
- Participants with a dominant personality can take over discussions and prevent others from freely voicing their ideas. This is especially true for people who are shy and may consider these actions as hostile, thus preventing them from actively joining the brainstorming session.
- People with similar backgrounds or those with close relationships tend to form groups and dominate discussions. They tend to drown other voices and tend to support ideas from their group.
- Maybe its laziness or simply the first ideas tend to be the best ones. The first ideas often set the trends, and ideas generally tend to be similar. This is especially true when the idea is suggested by someone who is in a senior position.
- People may also stop themselves from contributing their ideas if they feel theirs is inferior to another person’s suggestion. This is done to avoid being ridiculed or embarrassing themselves.
- The brainstorming session can take a life of its own and quickly spiral into a lengthy discussion. Instead of being a fruitful exchange of ideas, it can lead to lengthy debates.
- With so many participants, the amount of time for every individual to contribute and discuss every point can take a long time.
What is Brain-writing?
This brainstorming technique aims to generate ideas by utilizing a large group of people. It is done when there is little time to discuss the ideas, and the main purpose is to collect ideas. The brainstorming session starts by giving out paper slips to the participants. The number of paper slips that will be distributed to each participant depends on the number of ideas that need to be generated. The facilitator then directs the group by giving the main purpose of the session or the question to be answered. The answers are then collected and collated.
The principle behind brain-writing is simple; it aims to avoid the "noise" generated from traditional Brainstorming, giving every participant equal opportunity to share their ideas. Many studies have shown the advantage of brain-writing over Brainstorming. It is said the brain-writing generates better, more creative ideas. This is because participants may remain anonymous and avoid the pressure of performing in front of a large group. To further explore the benefits of brain-writing, let us look into its advantages below.
Brain-writing 101 – How is it done?
Step 1: Give basic instructions, mechanics of what needs to be done, expected
Step 2: Hand out paper to each participant or send the topic of discussion through email and ask participants to submit their ideas by replying to the email (online brain-writing).
Step 3: Provide the point of discussion or problem statement
Step 4: Give important details such as how long should it take for participants to write their ideas, the number of rounds, and the procedure of submitting the papers
Step 5: Verify if the participants have understood the process from writing the ideas to submitting the paper
Step 6: Pass the papers to the participants
Step 7: Ask the participants to submit the papers
Step 8: Collect the papers and submit it for discussion or review
Step 9: Repeat the brain-writing process depending on the number of rounds or until the objective of the brain-writing has been achieved
Advantages of Brain-writing
- Participants can remain anonymous and freely write their ideas without fear of negative feedback or comments.
- Participants are free to voice their individual ideas. Unlike other brainstorming techniques, participants with similar affiliations or backgrounds tend to group themselves. It prevents or limits the number of ideas generated because these individuals try to create a single voice or idea.
- It gives everybody, regardless of their personality, those suffering from confidence or anxiety issues the opportunity to contribute.
- Brain-writing makes the process of generating new ideas more efficiently. It avoids time-consuming discussions and confrontation among participants. This is a common problem seen in conventional brainstorming sessions when individuals with contrasting opinions go into lengthy discussions.
- Brain-writing can be done almost anywhere. Instead of passing papers to participants, these can be done electronically through emails for example. This does not limit Brainstorming to a single location or time. Several individuals across different locations or even time zones could participate in the brainstorming session.
- Ideas are not lost, simply because these are written or taken down. Unlike brainstorming sessions, ideas may be lost during discussions.
Brainstorming Versus Brain-writing
The major pitfall of Brainstorming is not the process itself but the human factors that can influence the process and affect its objectivity. A brainstorming facilitator, for example, may have biases towards a certain individual or group. This could result in some ideas being ignored or passed because the facilitator simply has made their own conclusions.
Difficulties also include participants with shy personalities who prefer to take the back seat. There will also be those with dominant personalities who tend to control the discussion. The key to effective Brainstorming is to have an effective facilitator who can control the process. But even with this, there are just so many variables that can go wrong.