As part of the problem solving process, we use different tools and techniques to help us generate ideas and go through a process we often call ideation. We want to avoid building a solution looking for a problem. We don’t want to decide what the solution is before we clearly identify what the problem is, who it relates to, who it effects, and how it may be solved.
Brainstorming is a process for generating creative ideas and solutions through freewheeling group discussion.
Step 1: Every participant is encouraged to think aloud and suggest as many ideas as possible, no matter how useful or crazy they may seem. There are no right or wrong ideas - brainstorming is meant to generate many ideas without judging them. The analysis of the ideas comes after.
Step 2: Analysis, discussion, and refining of the ideas should not occur until after everyone’s ideas have been shared.
Defer judgement. All ideas are important and useful. Make everyone feel like they can share their idea and allow others to build on it.
Encourage wild ideas. Wild ideas can often give rise to creative leaps.
Build on the ideas of others. Being positive and building on the ideas of others takes some skill. In conversation, we try to use “and” instead of “but.”
Stay focused. Try to keep the discussion on target.
One conversation at a time. Your team is far more likely to build on an idea and make a creative leap if everyone is paying full attention to whoever is sharing a new idea.
Be visual. Write down your ideas on Post-it notes and put them on a wall. Nothing gets an idea across faster than drawing it.
Go for quantity. Aim for as many ideas as possible. In a good session, up to 100 ideas are generated in 60 minutes!
We brainstorm to have multiple possibilities to choose from and this results in better decisions. We brainstorm different kinds of problems that are important, and then we weigh them up and give each one a priority and a ranking. This can be done formally or informally. What we want to do is to see which one is the most feasible in terms of time and resources, such as the people power and technical ability that you have, and also in terms of importance to the team members and the impact on the community.
Once we brainstorm multiple problems and rank them, we then choose the most appropriate for the twelve-week program ahead of us, according to our skills, and the time each of the team members has to commit each week. By having multiple problems to choose from through the brainstorming process, we are then able to come up with a much better defined problem because we have considered a variety options. Brainstorming is an activity where we encourage everyone sitting at the table, or in the team to contribute ideas. There are no silly suggestions at this point in the brainstorming process. We want to get them all down on paper, regardless of how silly or unachievable they may sound at the time. We want to encourage freedom of thought which then hopefully leads to creativity, and through creativity we have true innovation.
The best way to do this is to find a white board and some pens, and have a scribe on the board and ask each person in the team equally for their contribution to the brainstorming of ideas. We also go through this process later on in module two where we start to come up with different solutions to the problem we define in this module, and we use the brainstorming technique for coming up with possible solutions.