Brainstorming is a well established technique to get ideas from a group of people.

It’s intended as a creative process focused on idea generation and must not be combined with idea assessment.

You don’t want someone to volunteer an idea and for someone else to dismiss it as stupid.

Any idea may have merits.

There are different techniques for brainstorming but my preferred method is a combination of personal thinking and group thinking.

Step 1 is to define the problem you want the group to focus on and your goal from the brainstorming exercise. Make sure everyone understands.

For example are you investigating the causes of a problem or are you trying to solve a cause?

Step 2 is to give everyone in the group a few minutes to write down their ideas on the causes of the problem or how to fix it.

Step 3 is to take an idea of each member of the group in turn and write it on a flipchart – or post it stickers on a wall. You may want to group the ideas in some way or you can go through later to sort into some kind of sequence.

Keep getting ideas until everyone has had a chance to contribute all their ideas.

Step 4 is to go through the ideas and clarify to make sure you understand.

See if they spark any extra ideas in the group.

“If we do B then we can also do B1 and B2”

You may find that several ideas are really the same when you review so you can combine or redefine.

Step 5 Ask everyone to pick their most important five or ten items. Effectively you’re getting people to vote for the ideas they like best to fix the problem.

Step 6 Tally up the votes and produce your short list.

The best ideas should have the most votes.

If there is consensus and everyone likes particular ideas, then great. You have your list of improvements.

If few ideas get more than one vote, go back to make sure that you don’t have the same basic idea repeated several times.

Go back over the problem and your goal and then ask people to pick wildcat ideas that aren’t on the consensus list.

Get people to explain why they think it fits the problem and goal and vote on whether it should be added to the consensus list.

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