Our brain is filled with tons of information. Some related to a topic, some unrelated to that topic but might be related to another. As a BA when you decide to work on a project, you have to think about its design, structure, ability, quality, durability, cost and much more. There are times when you cannot think on certain areas of that project. Might be you are not able to recollect or it’s not stored in your brain at all. For such obstacle brainstorming is a wonderful piece of activity that can provide new ideas or modify the ideas that you have already planned.
Brainstorming is the name given to a situation or a session when a group of people meet to generate new ideas around a specific area of interest. Using rules which will remove the closed and silent minded, people are able to think more freely and move into new areas of thought and so create numerous new ideas and solutions. The participants shout out ideas as they occur to them and then build on the ideas raised by others. All the ideas are noted down and are not criticized. Once the brainstorming session is over, ideas are then evaluated.
Brainstorming is “a conference technique by which a group attempts to find a solution for a specific problem by amassing all the ideas spontaneously by its members” – Alex Osborn
Brainstorming is one of the Elicitation Technique to produce numerous new ideas, and from those new ideas proceed with the further analysis. It is a technique to produce a broad and diverse set of options.
Now to more deep into this, brainstorming usually is used to answer these type of questions:
- What options are available to resolve this issue?
- What factors are constraining or stopping the group from moving ahead with an approach or option?
- What could be causing a delay in the activity?
- What can the group do to solve the problem?
While gathering this information from different sources I realized that brainstorming can help us solve most of the ‘WHAT’ and ‘HOW’ questions. It is worked by focusing on a topic/problem and then coming up with ideas to tackle or resolve it. It requires newly introduced as well as experienced participants as it will bring a mixture of fresh ideas as well as options to execute those ideas. If we facilitate properly, brainstorming activity can be fun, engaging and productive.
Now to start a brainstorming session the person conducting the session should prepare and develop a clear and sharp area of interest. He should put a time limit for the group to come up with new ideas. Larger the group more will be the time limit. Let it start with a round of a small introduction where everyone will be recognized. Encourage participants to be creative and sensible in the ideas. Set no limit to the number of ideas from every participant. Aim for participants who have wide range of experience with the topic. Try to set expectations of what is needed. In the beginning of the session there will be hundreds and thousands of ideas that will float in the room, but then after understanding with the pros and cons, try to eliminate one after another. Once you have a handful of ideas with you, rate those ideas with the help of the candidates. Once you reach the time limit try to end the session by giving a short conclusion of the session.
But wait! Your work is not done here. You have to make a list of all the ideas that were discussed in the session. Distribute the final list of ideas to the appropriate parties.
The success of brainstorming sessions depends upon the willingness of the participants to actually participate and contribute. It is essential that ideas not be debated during idea generation in order to maximize contributions from the group. Personal feelings and organizational politics should also be set aside during the session. I personally feel that as part of a longer meeting or workshop, brainstorming sessions can also help reduce tension and change the tone of the meeting.