Resources - Quality Systems

Brainstorming

Description Brainstorming is a group process wherein individuals quickly generate ideas on a particular problem, free from criticism. The emphasis is on the quantity of ideas, not the quality. In the end, the goal is to arrive at a proposed solution by group consensus. All members of the group are equals and each is free to express ideas openly. The technique is an excellent way of bringing out the creative thinking from a group.

Application Brainstorming is often used in business for such things as arriving at compromises during union negotiations, coming up with advertising slogans, identifying root causes of a problem, and finding solutions to a customer service problem.

If done properly, bashful yet creative people can be coaxed to propose good ideas. For some important brainstorming sessions, a facilitator is necessary. The facilitator should be knowledgeable in the brainstorming process and help as much as possible in the generation of ideas but should have no stake in the outcome of the brainstorming session.

There are three phases of brainstorming:

  1. Generation phase-group members generate a list of ideas.
  2. Clarification phase-the group reviews the list of ideas to make sure all members understand each one, discussions occur.
  3. Evaluation phase-the group eliminates duplication, irrelevancies, or issues that are off-limits.

Procedures Conduct a brainstorming session as follows:

  1. Clearly state the purpose of the brainstorming session.
  2. Group members can take turns expressing ideas, or a spontaneous discussion can occur.
  3. Discuss one topic at a time.
  4. Do not criticize ideas.
  5. Expand on ideas from others.
  6. Make the entire list of ideas available for all group members to review.
  7. After discussions and eliminations, arrive at a final proposed solution by group consensus.

Advantages The technique takes advantage of the ideas of a group to arrive at a quick consensus.

Limitations

  1. Brainstorming only proposes a solution but does not determine one.
  2. The technique is limited by the ability of the group to achieve consensus.

Source: System Engineering "Toolbox" for Design-Oriented Engineers, Sec 7. - NASA/RP-1358

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