Brainstorming Techniques: When Unity Is Strength

brainstorming techniques

In Project Management, Brainstorming is a technique that can produce innumerable advantages for the Project Manager. At the start of a project or at a particular stage, project managers inevitably want to get as many ideas as possible. This is where brainstorming comes in handy.

Brainstorming is the technique where a project team meets in a meeting in which the individual members expose all sorts of ideas related to the project in a creative way.

When it comes to brainstorming, it is important to keep in mind some fundamental aspects.

First of all, the main priority of brainstorming is quantity over quality. Brainstorming is in fact the first step in the exploration phase of a new project, so it is important to be open to all ideas and possibilities, without judging.

Brainstorming and clichés

Another common idea of brainstorming is that many think it can only be done in one way: An open discussion in a room with all the people involved.

This method is not necessarily wrong, but it leads to some disadvantages that can make a session unproductive.

For example, when the first couple of ideas is shared during the meeting, the group inevitably tends to focus only on these first ideas throughout the rest of the time.

The biggest problem with classic brainstorming is that only a small part of the group makes 60-75% of the conversation. This fact can often prevent other new ideas from coming to light.

It is therefore important to maintain an efficient and effective brainstorming session, also using different techniques. In this article we will see how.

How to plan the brainstorming session

Before entering a room to do a brainstorming session, there are some tasks that the project manager must perform. These are:

  • Defining the problem and purpose of the session using SMART objectives.
  • Identifing the participants. Usually most of the them are those who are most interested in the problem, but it is also possible to include “strangers” and experts so that there is a diversity of points of view.
  • Clearly communicating the date and time of the session. It is generally important to also indicate a time when the session will end, but it is advisable to suggest to the participants to keep a buffer time between the brainstorming session and their next engagement.

How to conduct the Brainstorming session

Some guidelines to follow during a brainstorming session are:

  • Make sure you have a blackboard in the room to document the ideas.
  • Divide complex problems into simpler problems and examine each smaller problem independently.
  • Divide the group so that each member can brainstorm even independently.
  • After classifying the ideas, agree on the solution.
  • Assign an owner to the solution to make sure it will be adressed properly.

What to do at the end of the Brainstorming session

Even after the brainstorming session there are several activities that must be completed, such as:

  • Give a reward or recognition to the participants. This will ensure that the next time a new brainstorming session takes place, people will be happy to participate.
  • Follow-up and monitoring of the solution decided upon closing.

Brainstorming techniques

There are six brainstorming techniques that can help project managers find better ideas. Let’s see what they are:

1. Brainwriting

This technique is particularly useful if the project deadline is approaching.

The activity starts with a team and the project manager who exposes the basic idea.

At this point, instead of speaking out the ideas, each team member writes down his ideas on a piece of paper. Each participant then passes his ideas to someone else, that adds his own. And so on.

When the last person in the group has finished writing his idea, the project manager collects the sheets, exposes them and the group discussion starts.

2. Virtual brainstorming

This brainstorming technique, as the name already says, does not require participants to be in the same room.

This technique is perfect in the case of a team working remotely. All is needed is a good internet connection and a device to connect to the network.

A centralized platform allows you to start the brainstorming session and to include the participants.

Here the ideas are written directly on the digital platform instead of on a blackboard and the discussion takes place online instead of in a room.

3. Rolestorming

One of the most engaging and playful brainstorming techniques is definitely rolestorming.

In this method, the participants do not think like themselves, but put themselves in the shoes of someone else, playing a role.

There is no limit to the role that can be played. To generate innovative ideas you can think of being the next Steve Jobs or going beyond the limits by impersonating a superhero.

This is a fantastic technique for generating creative ideas and thinking “out of the box”, because it allows participants to perceive the opportunity or the problem in another way.
the brainstorming techniques

4. Mind Mapping

This is probably the most used and known brainstorming technique.

The participants meet in a room in front of a blackboard and each one of them suggests ideas relevant to the problem that is represented in the middle of the sheet.

Based on the ideas presented, a map is created in the form of a tree, where each idea is a different branch. When the ideas are finished, it will be possible to see the big picture.

5. Reverse brainstorming

This technique is also called negative brainstorming because it totally reverses the classic concept of brainstorming.

In practice, the participants, instead of looking for ideas to improve or solve a given problem, are called to find ways to weaken the fact represented.

This technique will allow to find the elements that are not working in the analyzed situation.

6. Starbursting

From the word “star”, this brainstorming process begins by representing a star with six tips.

The center represents the topic on which the group will discuss, for example a product, and each of the six tips will represent a question:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • Why
  • When
  • How

During the brainstorming session it will therefore be necessary to specifically answer these questions, including all the sub-questions that will inevitably arise.

The benefits of group brainstorming

So why is brainstorming in a group advantageous?

It is a way to solve problems by holding a group discussion and gathering information or ideas that come through spontaneous participation in the discussion.

It is also a useful method, especially in the early stages of a product or project, to bring together different points of view.

And again, it’s a quick way to generate a great amount of ideas; a group effort can indeed increase the number exponentially.

Here are some tips to help the next brainstorm become a success:

  • Make clear goals from the start. What are you trying to find / solve? What restrictions are you operating with?
  • Just like with other collaborative meeting techniques, allow everyone to have a say in the matter. Facilitate the session so that people who are normally silent are the focus of attention at the same time as those who have a tendency to dominate discussions.
  • Let people generate ideas individually before meeting to discuss and elaborate. This will encourage the “silent” to actively participate without being overwhelmed by the ideas of the most dominant.
  • Prefer quantity over quality at the beginning.
  • Remind the group – and if necessary repeat it during the session – that no question or idea is stupid.

It may happen that brainstorming sessions sometimes do not bring great results. In these cases, it is important that the project manager is not discouraged.

Perhaps, if another brainstorming technique is tried – like the ones mentioned in this article – it will be possible to receive more fruitful ideas.

Brainstorming, in all its techniques, remains however a very effective methodology for generating new ideas and new thoughts, useful for the success of a project.

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