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Information Broker

Tool: Brainstorming

Typical use (type of issue/project)

Once a problem has been identified to encourage creative thinking and the generation of high-quality ideas in a non-judgemental group setting.

Ease of use rating

Used by

Yourself and your team, or focus group.

Tips for effective use

Do not ask people to clarify their ideas, and record everything that is suggested. Have a moderator who records the team’s ideas.

Signals of successful use

Many ideas produced in a short time in a positive environment.

Signals of unsuccessful use

Having an environment which does not enhance group activity and teamwork where few ideas are generated with minimal participation.

Links to other tools

SWOT, Focus group, SCAMPER, Forcefield analysis, McKinsey 7S, Prioritising tasks and initiatives, and Connecting initiatives to business outcomes.


Brainstorming session

Project guide

1. Determine the case for/against a brainstorming session

Due date:

Project owner and participants:

Other project details:

The following are considerations for facilitating a brainstorming session:

The issue

  • How defined is the issue? In other words, how well does it lend to becoming a ‘creative challenge’ for brainstorming participants? Does it need more (or less) definition to be an ideal creative challenge?
  • How much would the solution development of this issue benefit from a creative approach that provides a multitude of alternatives?
  • Do we already have possible solutions to evaluate?
  • Is the issue public enough to pose to a variety of participants?

Resources needed

  • Do we have the time and resources to plan a brainstorming session?
  • Do we have access to a collective diversity of participants that have the time and willingness to generate ideas? Is there an individual available that would make a suitable moderator?
  • Do we have access to a conference room or off-site retreat to host brainstorming participants?
  • Will we have the time and resources to follow up on or implement the ideas generated?

2. Define the creative challenge

Due date:

Project owner and participants:

Other project details:

The creative challenge should be concise and open-ended. A typical creative challenge starts with

‘In what ways might we...?’ or ‘How could we...?’

  • Creative challenge:

3. Identify and invite participants

Due date:

Project owner and participants:

Other project details:

An ideal size of a brainstorming group is eight to 12 participants who together possess a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, personalities, and departments. The moderator of the session manages time and writes ideas generated, and he or she should be an enthusiastic person with a sense of humor that is not a direct manager of any participants. When inviting participants, inform them only of the general nature of the brainstorming session to discourage advance preparation.

Participant name Participant email Invitation date Accepted?
Moderator name Moderator email Invitation date Accepted?

4. Prepare brainstorming site and materials

Due date:

Project owner and participants:

Other project details:

An ideal timeframe for a brainstorming session is one and a half to two hours. A conference room or more relaxed atmosphere, as well as a whiteboard or flip chart, are the only necessary materials.

  • Brainstorming session location:
  • Brainstorming session time:
  • Brainstorming session materials located:
  • Guide (on following page) edited and distributed to moderator
  • Participants notified of time and location

5. Write report

Due date:

Project owner and participants:

Other project details:

For each brainstorming session, a report should be written and distributed to internal stakeholders and brainstorming participants that includes the following components:

  • Issue
  • Evaluation criteria
  • Top ranking ideas and their scores
  • Relevant comments raised by participants
  • Follow-up plans
  • Names of participants and list of all ideas raised (optional)

Moderator guide

Introduction (15 minutes)

  • Introduce the issue and explain importance of the session
  • Write the creative challenge on top of whiteboard
  • Explain that once the session has begun, all participants are free to shout ideas for the moderator to write on the board
  • Discourage criticism of ideas, as it is often the ideas that seem crazy at first are the best ideas
  • Inform participants of the session timeline
  • Establish rules such as withholding judgment, encouraging wild ideas, valuing quantity over quality, building on the ideas of others, and valuing every idea equally

Ideation (30 to 45 minutes)

  • Encourage the flow of ideas
  • Write all ideas on the whiteboard as they are voiced
  • Inform participants of time remaining
  • Establish sense of humor and continually discourage criticism

Evaluation (30 minutes)

  • Determine approximately five criteria upon which to evaluate each idea as a group
  • Each criterion should reflect intended implementation and allow ranking on a sliding scale
  • Reach an unofficial group consensus on the most relevant criteria
  • Ask participants to review available ideas and come up with five to eight ideas that have the most potential by identifying the best and worst ideas
  • Evaluate each idea using the established criteria, rating on a scale of 0 to 5, where five indicates that the idea completely meets the criterion
  • Evaluate ideas either by group consensus or calculating the average of individual rankings as submitted on slips of paper

Conclusion (15 minutes)

  • Discuss the high-scoring ideas with participants
  • Note additional feedback regarding the ideas and/or the session
  • Explain next steps that will be taken with the ideas
  • Thank the participants