July 26, 2009

Brainstorming Rules: What TO DO and What NOT TO DO...

These two short videos are priceless! They were created by students at the Stanford Design Institute. The first one shows how NOT to brainstorm and the second one shows HOW to do it effectively. They picked a fanciful problem to solve - saving your chewing gum when you go to class.

The worst case example happens all the time. In fact, I was at a meeting last week with people with whom I don't normally work, and we were "brainstorming" about a new program. One person made a suggestion, and someone else literally responded with, "Go shoot yourself." For anyone who has spent any time polishing their brainstorming skills, they know that the FIRST rule is to defer judgment. This was a great, real life example of how NOT to do it.

Here is a video summary of what NOT to do:

Here is a video summary of what TO DO:


- Defer judgment
- Capture all the ideas
- Encourage wild ideas
- One conversation at a time
- Build on other people's ideas
- Be visual - use words and pictures
- Use headlines to summarize ideas
- Go for volume - the more ideas the better!


Burt Swersey said...

Helpful information. However, brainstorming is best preceded with clear definition of a user, his/her need, understanding of the problem, research in what has been done before and criticism of present state of the art.
What is the problem for specific user? Why is it needed? What are metrics for evaluating alternatives? Vision for success?

Leticia said...

@ Burt Swersey:

Agreed! Brainstorming is not useful unless is part of a process that includes observation, research and definition of the user and the problem.

This video however intends, specifically, to showcase good and bad mindsets and habits that will make the ideation phase of the process succeed or fail.

geo said...

as a recovering artist and inventor i try and train my mind to have an open mind - challenging because we all have a point of view and like to change the facts to fit our needs - but often i like to ask myself and others a few questions when i approach something - what am i missing that is obvious - because invention is seeing the obvious that nobody else sees and the other one is a quote i like from the theater director robert wilson "if you think you are going in the wrong direction, go there... if you think you are going in the right direction, change directions" and another question in the brainstorming process is what do i/we/you/them want to walk away from the experience with and tie that up in the end of the brainstorming - brainstorming is great food for thought if you have an open mind


Kayhan said...

Good executive summary on this great subject of brainstorming; thank you!..

I would like to make one point:

Brainstorming is easier if the participants have involved in previous sessions together as a team.

If there are new participants in the team, I think always helps to recap the ground rules just to make sure everybody is on the same page prior to the brainstorming session.

A tip of the hat to all who make it happen, innovate, and invent...

Ky Ekinci
Office Divvy

on twitter: @OfficeDivvy

Anonymous said...

It is important to recognize that coming up with new ideas is a two step process. It consists of:
1. Brainstorming to come up with the ideas
2. Circling back to the ideas and polishing them to make them great ideas that can be implemented.

In other words, ideas that you come up in step 1 are the rough diamonds and step 2 is the diamond polishing and cutting process.

So with brainstorming you want quantity of diamonds no matter what you think the quality of them are because until you do step 2 you will not fully know. That crappy looking rough diamond with some polish later could be a real gem.