Brainstorming revisited

Brainstorming is still a popular method of encouraging creativity in groups (despite PC attempts to re-name it).

Joerg Melhorn in Scientific American Mind suggests some additional ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Most of you know that in the early stages of brainstorming criticism is discouraged and ideally here should be two stages; the fist when ideas are generated and the second hone they are critiqued and vaulted by a different group of people.

Melhorn suggests that you could hide the problem from the group and ask them to think about a broader topic e.g. attractiveness, before narrowing it down to the real issue e.g. packaging.

Brainwriting is another way of generating ideas. A group of 6 people are given a sheet of paper with empty boxes, say 3 columns of 6 where the columns represent different aspects of the problem.

Each person thinks about the problem then writes one idea in each of the top three boxes before passing it on to a colleague. The colleague then elaborates or expands on the ideas in each box and then passes it along again. Potentially there could be 108 different ideas using this method.

Brainwalking is similar but this time there are flip charts for each aspect of the problem and small groups work on these separately writing down all their ideas about that aspect before moving on to the next flip chart and adding to the ideas there.

The ideas produced tend to be much richer than traditional brainstorming.

You might recognise some of these are borrowing from OD methods such as World Cafe and there are other methods such as De Bono’s six thinking hats.

Source: Scientific American Mind Vol 17 No 4

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