Most of us would know about ‘Brainstorming’ – this technique was originally developed by an advertising executive, Alex Osborn – and has gone on to be the most common technique for generating lots of creative ideas very quickly. Brainstorming can be a great way to help a group of people build energy, reduce their inhibitions about working together, and create the richest possible database of ideas.

Brainstorming increases the initial energy level of the group and can be also used to let people “let off steam” and “have their say” quickly .( It is important to really stress to people that the idea of Brainstorming is to ‘generate’ ideas – and that all ideas are good ideas in a Brainstorming session.).

Consensus building skills, of which brainstorming is one, are critical to participatory and inclusive processes, which require people to take on a range of ideas, some of which may be new to them, and to think strategically. You can help colleagues and team-members to identify and discuss a range of ideas, and to reach effective actionable conclusions, by using brainstorming techniques.

Collect ideas: Brainstorming is a process of collecting ideas, in which everyone is encouraged to participate. It involves getting the ideas out on the table rather than telling or selling a particular set of ideas. It is important to let the ideas “flow” and to explain them later - explanations can stop the flow of ideas. A flip-chart or overhead can be used to record all the ideas publicly. This way everyone can see the ideas and it allows people to revisit certain issues and add to them.

Clarify and discuss: When all the ideas are recorded, then is the time to clarify their meaning and encourage people to discuss them.

Cluster and eliminate: As the group discusses the ideas, those which are similar can be clustered, and duplications can be eliminated or consolidated. This clustering and consolidation helps to give a pattern to the brainstormed ideas, and thus helps people to make sense of them.

Decide using agreed criteria: The process of “making sense” can also be a process of “coming to a decision” on what the outcome of the brainstorm is. Such a decision must openly be based on criteria that have been agreed with the group.

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