What is Brainstorming, and what are best practices, tools and online software templates for teams and organizations?
Definition of Brainstorming
Brainstorming is the creation and listing of ideas by one or more individuals in order to find a solution to a problem or generate ideas for a future business opportunity. Also known as “Idea Generation” brainstorming is a common practice in marketing, innovation, design thinking, Six Sigma and other quality management processes.
Description of Brainstorming
Brainstorming, also known in business as Ideation, is a technique a business can use in order to come into an industry and make an impact. It is also an important technique that existing businesses can use in their own industries in order to grow and continue to please an existing customer base. Brainstorming is a key component of idea generation, business innovation, and total quality management.
Brainstorming can be used in many ways, including new product ideas, marketing campaigns, internal process improvement and organizational innovation and change. There are three key reasons Brainstorming is beneficial:
- Collecting differing viewpoints. Brainstorming and collecting the viewpoints of a wide range of people helps to create ideas and innovations that are widely respected within a business.
- Encouraging new thinking. Asking a wide range of stakeholders to brainstorm encourages all levels of employees to think about goals and issues within the company.
- Building team relationships. Instead relying on one person to bear the brunt of responsibility to come up with the next new idea, Brainstorming spreads the load of innovation and encourages employees to work together. Brainstorming asks employees to work together respectfully to develop ideas and create viable solutions and ideas.
While there are no widely-agreed upon rules to Brainstorming sessions, there are some guidelines and norms which are helpful to follow to increase the effectiveness of group processes focused on idea generation:
Defer judgement: Be supportive of all ideas, since people are more likely to share their ideas in a comfortable space. Ensure that all ideas are recorded without initial evaluation, and then judge them for quality after the initial ideation is complete.
Encourage wild ideas: Be open to exploring even ideas that seem crazy, since they can always be adjusted later. Remember that some of the best inventions started as an unrealistic and crazy idea.
Go for quantity: The more ideas, the better, so ask for a large quantity of ideas from the group. Allow the group to build on each other’s ideas, since no idea starts off as a perfectly formed plan. Many individual ideas can be combined to make something even better.
Keep everyone focused: Brainstorming sessions can get out of hand if side conversations exist or people get off on tangents. Help the group stay on track to one particular goal by maintaining a lively and entertaining atmosphere.
Ignore seniority and rank: If everyone is treated equally during a session, a higher quality and larger quantity of ideas will be allowed to emerge.
Display all ideas: Use Post-it notes, printer paper or a flip chart to record all ideas and allow the group to build upon each other’s ideas.
After the brainstorming session, the leaders should arrange all the ideas into related categories to prioritize and evaluate them. Prioritization criteria should be as follows:
- Makes a big difference or adds high value
- Ability to do given current resources
- Feasible to complete within the given time frame
It is common to “score” ideas based on these criteria. Brainstorm prioritization processes can be as simple or complex as desired. Some teams choose to just “vote” on the best idea, while others may want to score ideas individually across various criteria, even “weighting” the criteria based on what factors are most important to use for prioritization.
During prioritization, lists of ideas should then be shared with the brainstormers to keep them thinking about the ideas that came up. It’s possible that sharing and evaluating ideas will actually help the team generate additional ideas that can be added to the master list.
Once ideas are prioritized, it can be useful to assign the top ideas to team members for further development and refinement. Ultimately, the group should be kept in the loop as ideas are implemented.
Tools & Templates
Various tools and templates for Brainstorming can be used including post-it notes, flip charts, spreadsheets, online software and more.
upBOARD's Online Brainstorming Tools & Templates
Unlike most traditional Brainstorming processes, upBOARD’s online Brainstorming tools allow any team or organization to instantly begin working with our web templates and input forms. Our digital platform goes far beyond other software tools by including progress dashboards, data integration from existing documents or other SaaS software, elegant intuitive designs, and full access on any desktop or mobile device.
Learn more about upBOARD’s portfolio of other operations best practice tools and templates, including:
5 S System, Brainstorming, Business Process Re-engineering, Gemba Walk, House of Lean, House of Quality, Huddle Boards, Just in Time (JIT), Kaizen, Kanban Boards, Key Performance Indicators, Leading and Lagging Indicators, Lean Manufacturing, Objectives & Key Results, Operational Performance Management, Outsourcing Decision-Matrix, Performance-Based Budgeting, QDIP Board, RATER Model, Six Sigma, SQDC Board, SQDCM Board, Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), Theory of Constraints (TOC), Total Quality Management (TQM), Value Stream Mapping, and Zero Defects.