Rules for Brainstorming

To ensure an effective session, rules for brainstorming must be established. All team members should be given copies of these policies so that they understand what is expected of them during the session. It’s also a great idea to post this Code of Conduct at all sessions! That way there is no confusion about the brainstorming rules. But the best way to ensure compliance is to have the team create their own.

  • Determine the topic to be considered. If you developed a problem statement you have already determined the topic. If not, write out a description of the issue at hand. Ask the team if there is any misunderstanding or confusion about this description. Also detail any requirements that must be met as a result of the improvement opportunity. 
  • Review the brainstorming rules at the beginning of each session. 
  • Remain focused on the topic. This doesn’t mean you create a police state during your sessions, but a good facilitator knows how to gently bring the focus back to the topic when the team veers off the path. See next point. 
  • Have fun, encourage creativity. Encourage the team to develop both practical and insanely impractical ideas. This is not the time for evaluation; the really bad ideas will weed themselves out later in the process. 
  • Establish a no criticism policy during the session. There are no dumb ideas (see above). Judgments should never be made while in the session. Even non-verbal criticism, like rolling of the eyes, limits creativity and eventually the number of ideas your team develops. 
  • Piggy-backing is not only tolerated-it is welcome. Sometimes the best solutions are developed from ideas already presented. The facilitator should encourage the team to build on previously stated ideas. 
  • Have we mentioned to have fun? This cannot be over emphasized- creating a relaxed, enjoyable workspace leads to the creation of more ideas. 
  • Assign a scribe. The scribe should not paraphrase responses from the team, unless the clarity of the response is in question. A flip chart should be used to record all responses. 
  • Encourage participation from the entire team. The quiet team members may not respond at first, but if the session is enjoyable, they probably won’t want to miss having fun. 
  • All team members should listen for limiting phrases. These phrases will limit responses and creativity. Listen for comments such as these: if it ain’t broke, why fix it; been there, done that; won’t work here; we tried that before; we’ll need to hire a rocket scientist to do that. You’re probably getting the idea by now- at the first sign of negativity the team or the facilitator should remind the offender of the rules of brainstorming. 
  • Evaluation of the response occurs after the session, and only after the session. 

In addition to these simple rules for brainstorming, some additional guidelines for effective brainstorming should also be understood.

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