Chances are that you would have come across the concept of using Brainstorming at one time or another in your corporate career. Brainstorming is the most used and abused word in the corporate corridors. If done in a fit and proper manner, the benefits of using brainstorming for problem solving are immense.

What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a conference technique by which a group attempts to find a solution for a specific problem by amassing all the ideas spontaneously by its members. Alex F Osborn is the father of this technique who detailed it in his book titled Applied Imagination published in 1963. He claimed that brainstorming was more effective than individuals working alone in generating ideas.

Guidelines for conducting a Brainstorming Session

There are a series of steps that should be followed in order to make the best use of the brainstorming session.

1.     Assembling of a group of members who want to participate

2.     Presenting a problem or an issue to members.

3.     Encouraging them to propose a solution without cutting them out

4.     Consolidating all the proposals/solutions.

5.     Evaluating these proposals/solutions to identify the appropriate ones.

The leader who facilitates the session must be objective and be adept in presenting the problem or subject for brainstorming clearly. The focus of the sessions must be on quantity of ideas rather than quality with the group having multidisciplinary participation.

Members must be invited to build on ideas of other members to get the conversation flowing. Judgment or critical comments on the proposal of a member by others should be discouraged, as it would shut down the ideation process. Mutual respect should be maintained and everyone should believe that every member has a potential to contribute.

If guided well a brainstorming session can bring hidden ideas and thoughts to the forefront, a lot of these get washed under the carpet in day-to-day affairs. A word of caution for conducting these sessions is to have a mature leader guide the session so that people don’t feel let down or are bulldozed by heavy ideas. Remember brainstorming is not about winning, its is about getting all the possibilities on the table – good or bad and then the group looks at the pros and cons of each without hanging the ones whose ideas were rejected.