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Brainstorming Techniques

I’m always intrigued by different methods of brainstorming. I always learned the cardinal rule:

NO CRITICISM . . . Don’t start “evaluating” during a true brainstorm; let all ideas surface.

Last November, however, wrote an article “Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work,” which was published in the Washington Post suggesting that there’s a better way to come up with new ideas. She said,

Evidence has long shown that getting a group of people to think individually about solutions, and then combining their ideas, can be more productive than getting them to think as a group. Some people are afraid of introducing radical ideas in front of a group and don’t speak up; in other cases, the group is either too small or too big to be effective.”

In a recent LinkedIN discussion, Todd Wilmore offers another fresh approach to brainstorming called Brain-Writing 6-3-5.  Perhaps we should all give a few different methods a try to see what works best for our group.

Brain-Writing 6-3-5

6 people write 3 ideas in 5 minutes. Each person has a blank 6-3-5 worksheet with three columns and six rows.

Here’s how it works: Start with a statement of the Problem.  Then ask everyone writes the same topic or problem statement at the top of their worksheet . Each person writes 3 ideas on the top row of the worksheet in 5 minutes in a short but complete sentence. When everyone is done, or after 5 minutes each person passes worksheet to the person to their right, who adds three more ideas. Keep going until the worksheet is finished. Now you have 108 ideas to evaluate together . Here is a link to a video that explains it

Posted online by Todd Wilmore

Wacky and Worst . . .

We facilitate the generation of new ideas and are continually trying to get people out of their habitual thinking patterns. Two of “craziest” creative techniques we use are:

  • worst idea — trying to generate bad ideas instead of good ones (and then finding something value/a trigger in the worst idea to inspire a good one.)
  • wacky role play — examples: to invent a new laundry detergent, we had session participants role-play a day in the life of a sock.  To generate a new make-up, we had participants imagine the unique make-up needs of a mermaid, a pioneer woman, a vampire, and an animated character. The animated character led to a very successful new product from Prescriptives: the idea of light-reflecting make-up called, appropriately enough, Magic. If you’re interested, There are more “crazy” techniques and examples of their successful application in my book, Idea Stormers (Wiley Jossey-Bass).

Posted by Bryan Mattimore,  Co-Founder, Chief Idea Guy @ Growth Engine the Innovation Agency


The Traditional Osborne Method

Advertising Executive, Alex Osborne outlined the method in his 1953 book Applied Imagination.

  1. Focus on quantity:  The assumption is that quantity breeds quality — the greater the number of ideas generated, the greater the chance of producing a radical and effective solution.
  2. Withhold criticism: Instead or criticizing others’ ideas, participants should focus on extending or adding to ideas, reserving criticism for a later ‘critical stage’ of the process. By suspending judgment, participants will feel free to generate unusual ideas.
  3. Welcome unusual ideas: To get a good and long list of ideas, unusual ideas are welcomed. They can be generated by looking from new perspectives and suspending assumptions. These new ways of thinking may provide better solutions.
  4. Combine and improve ideas: Good ideas may be combined to form a single better good idea.

Other unusual techniques

Song by Song

We did a brainstorming exercise during which we played a new song every 3-5 minutes. Participants had to generate ideas that somehow related to that song (however tangentially). Having a different frame sometimes generated some crazy-great ideas, and it gave enough variety to have them continually thinking about the problem in a different way.  Posted online by Missy Covington


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