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Get The Gears Rolling
Brainstorming is a great way to generate ideas for new products, services, or even just for internal business problem solving. Many people are unfamiliar with standard methods of brainstorming. Although there are no official rules, these guidelines can help keep the flow going. It also can be a fun way for a team to interact with each other.
Following The Rules
It may seem strange to think that brainstorming has rules but it really does and it's important to follow them to keep the flow of ideas moving forward. I'll get into the rules further on.
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Isn't Brainstorming Just An Exchange Of Ideas?
Many may believe that brainstorming is just everyone in a team shouting ideas. But it is more formal than that and it should be. If you didn't have rules for the exchange chaos would ensue and nothing would ever get done.
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Overview Of The Rules
The rules of brainstorming are really those defined by the group. But generally speaking, it's always a good idea for someone to write down all of the responses. Most brainstorming sessions are done in three stages, the first one being the total idea generation, the second one is to critique those ideas, and the third is to decide which choices to choose.
Stage 1 - Idea Generation
It's really up to the team that is participating but a great rule in brainstorming is to make sure that no criticism of any idea happens in this stage. This is crucial as if people's ideas are cut off in this stage, they will be less likely to continue generating ideas. Have it open and let the ideas flow. If it comes out of someone's mouth, it gets written out.
It's important for the session's moderator to enforce this rule. If someone blurts out a criticism, the moderator should gently remind that person that this is not the stage for that.
Role Of The Moderator
The moderator, often the group leader, is responsible for ensuring that the rules of the group are enforced. But he should also try and keep the meeting flow going. If there is a lull in the idea generation, then he should start coming up with a few to let others ideas' continue. Sometimes, if he shouts out ideas that are humor based, this can open the session for others to do the same. It's important to have some fun during a brainstorming session!
Stage 3 - Determination
This stage really depends on the number of decisions that the group needs to make. If for example, you are coming up with a name for your company baseball team, you can only have one choice. Another example is if you were judging an art competition. Again there is only one winner.
This stage is very similar to stage 2 except it usually is necessary to be much more critical and truly determine what is the best choice from among the group. If at the end it cannot be determined then the tie usually goes to the moderator.
Stage 2 - Critical Stage
Stage 2 begins when all of the ideas have been exhausted and the moderator can no longer spur the group on by throwing some extra ideas. In stage 2, the moderator will read each item and then ask the group if it should stay or go. The rule here is typically majority rules and any ambiguity gives the moderator the choice. He needs to gauge how the group feels about the item. Sometimes it warrants further discussion. But if the decision is to scratch, it gets crossed off the list. At the end of this stage the group usually has from 3 to 10 ideas.
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During stage 2, sometimes groups will categorize related items into groups to make it easier to evaluate the items but this isn't always necessary. It's important to remember that the group makes the rules and chooses who is to moderate. It's not always a high ranking manager. In fact, it's often better not to have someone like that moderate as it can lead to the group not giving their true opinions out of fear of retaliation. Further, if the manager is moderating, she may make premature decisions at the wrong stage of any of the processes.
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Summary Of The Stages
Analyze each item and cross off
Make decision on remaing items.