A structured procedure for helping a group to generate ideas. The basic rules are to suspend evaluation and to keep the session short (say ten minutes). To use brainstorming effectively, one should first gain the group’s agreement to use brainstorming. Then, select a facilitator who
- encourages quantity of ideas,
- encourages wild or potentially unpopular ideas,
- reminds the group not to evaluate (either favorably or unfavorably),
- does not introduce his or her own ideas, and
- records all ideas.
When people follow the above procedures carefully, brainstorming greatly increases the number of creative ideas they suggest in comparison with traditional group meetings. This is because it removes some (but not all) of the negative effects of the group process. Brainwriting (individual idea generation) is even more effective than brainstorming, assuming that people will work by themselves. One way to do this is to call a meeting and then allocate, say, ten minutes for brainwriting. Brainwriting is particularly effective because everyone can generate ideas (i.e., no facilitator is needed). The sources of the ideas are not identified. Brainstorming or brainwriting can be used with econometric models to create a list of explanatory variables and to find alternative ways of measuring variables. It can also be used to create a list of possible decisions or outcomes that might occur in the future, which could be useful for role-playing and expert opinions. Brainstorming is often confused with “talking a lot,” which is one of the deplorable traits of unstructured or leaderless group meetings.