The Step by Step Guide to
Brainstorming

© 1997,2002 JPB Creative Co, Ltd
Explicit permission for use has been granted to University Learning Institute.

1. Define your problem (please note that the word "problem" is not necessarily negative - your problem could be "We need a new product for the Christmas season" or "How can we effectively use our departmental budget surplus for this year?"). Write out your problem concisely and make sure that everyone understands the problem and is in agreement with the way it is worded. There is no need to put a lot of restrictions on your problem at this time.

2. Give yourselves a time limit - we recommend around 25 minutes, but experience will show how much time is required. Larger groups may need more time to get everyone's ideas out.

3. Everyone must shout out solutions to the problem while one person writes them out or enters them into BrainStormer. There must be ABSOLUTELY NO CRITICIZING OF IDEAS. No matter how daft, how impossible or how silly an idea is, it must be written down. Laughing is to be encouraged. Criticism is not. Why? Because you want to encourage the free flow of ideas and as soon as participants of the brainstorming session begin to fear criticism of their ideas, they'll stop generating ideas. Moreover, Ideas that first seem silly may prove to be very good or may lead to ideas that are very good.

4. Once your time is up, select the five ideas which you like best. Make sure everyone involved in the brainstorming session is in agreement.

5. Write down about five criteria for judging which ideas best solve your problem. Criteria should start with the word "should", for example, "it should be cost effective", "it should be legal", "it should be possible to finish before July 15", etc.

6. Give each idea a score of 0 to 5 points depending on how well it meets each criterion. Once all of the ideas have been scored for each criterion, add up the scores.

7. The idea with the highest score will best solve your problem. But you should keep a record of all of your best ideas and their scores in case your best idea turns out not to be workable.

Summary Suggestions from other sources:

  • Relax. Play some creative music.
  • Spelling or style doesn't count.
  • Don't worry about organization.
  • Free-associate ideas. Keep them simple.
  • One cannot say 'but' in response to a suggestion, but can say 'and'.
  • Write or sketch as quickly as you can.
  • Write or sketch in any order.
  • Develop all ideas.
  • Keep working.