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Brainstorming: The Basics

Brainstorming is a process for generating a lot of ideas on a given topic or problem without stopping to talk about or evaluate ideas as they are written down. Brainstorming is appropriate any time a group needs to come up with a list of ideas. It can be used when analyzing an issue, envisioning a desired goal, or coming to a solution.

Key Points To Take Away

--- Brainstorming is a group of tools for generating ideas.
--- There are variations of brainstorming to suit different situations.
--- The key rule in brainstorming is that evaluation is not allowed during the process.


Brainstorming has many variations. Whichever variation you employ, there are a handful of basic rules you might follow.

  • No one evaluates or comments on ideas as they are suggested. Ideas are simply recorded as given.
  • As the facilitator, it is especially important to stay neutral in your reactions to each idea. Clarify only enough to get the idea recorded correctly.
  • Participants should express whatever ideas they have without holding back.
  • The more ideas the better! No idea is too far out. Remember there will be a time for evaluation later.
  • Repetition is OK. It isn't worth the time or interruption to work out overlaps at this stage -- and you don't want anyone to feel their idea was rejected.
  • Piggy-backing on someone else's ideas is encouraged. This is often the building block of a workable solution.

Each time you do brainstorming, it is helpful to review the rules with your group and to set a time limit; that way, people won't go on forever. If you are looking to break out of customary ways of thinking, choose a more creative variation of the tool or rearrange the physical setting for the meeting. (We will address these ideas in more detail in next week's entry.) In addition, be sure to affirm humor, laughter, and creativity. Be assertive about stopping any judgmental comments.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Get creative with some variations on traditional brainstorming.


About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

Learn more by clicking the links below:

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What will you learn from this series?

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