Weathering Brainstorms: How to Capture Ideas With Brainstorming Instead of Create Chaos

December 11th, 2013

Often they can remind you of turbulent tornados: They can be immensely powerful and leave a path of destruction behind. In the aftermath you often are left with a pile of cluttered, unrelated ideas.

Image courtesy: prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy: prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But brainstorming sessions need not create any chaos: When executed correctly, they can be an extremely powerful ideation tool. This post will show you how ideas are captured in design thinking workshops by effectively applying brainstorming techniques. Brainstorming, as an essential component of the design thinking process, is done in two separate waves:  

1st Wave: Braindump

The first wave of idea generation is the so-called ‘braindump’. All participants are asked to write down their ideas as they come. Often these ideas can be obvious ones, but they are all essential to the outcome of the brainstorming session. It is important that this is done individually (and silently) by each participant. Sticky notes are great to do this, because they allow people to write their ideas down silently – one idea per note, as concisely as possible. After reaching the time limit, each participant will verbally share his or her ideas and stick them on a board or wall. If what is written on a note is somewhat unclear, the owner can explain it briefly. However, discussions about notes should be avoided as much as possible. While sticking the ideas up, the group will also simultaneously remove duplicates.  

2nd Wave: Divergent Thinking

The collected ideas of the first wave serve as inspiration for the second wave. Encourage participants to be open to others’ ideas and make variations or combine ideas with their own. Again, participants should note their ideas silently on sticky notes; one idea per note. Then they are, for a second time, collected on the wall or board. This second wave of brainstorming will create mixed concepts and a new level of originality. If the participants are still able to come up with ideas and are eager to share them, this wave can be repeated. At the end of such a 2-wave-brainstorming session, you will have a wall full of grouped ideas. Throughout the entire design thinking workshop, the group will continue working with this collection of ideas.  

Profit from the Power of Brainstorming

In general, brainstorming is a very popular creativity technique. How brainstorming sessions are executed and led varies greatly and so does each session’s overall effectiveness, but with a discrete set of ground rules the power of brainstorming can be both unleashed and successfully captured without creating so much chaos – as we have experienced. We have come up with the top 5 rules for brainstorming that you should consider. Follow and (nicely) enforce these rules, and your next brainstorming session will be a success without having to weather the storm!  

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