Brainstorming is a popular instructional technique used to generate ideas in training, facilitated sessions, and meetings. The most common way to conduct a brainstorming session is to use the “popcorn” brainstorming technique. The session leader announces, “Let’s get a list of ideas; there is no such thing as a bad idea.” This random, popcorn technique will often generate a lot of ideas, but sometimes the quality of the ideas is lacking or, in some cases, a very vocal participant can dominate the session, leaving quieter participants with a smaller chance to contribute. A skilled facilitator can be successful using this method; however, using variations of brainstorming can really maximize the output of the group.
Here are three brainstorming variations:
A more structured method that ensures everyone has a chance to speak. Ask the participants to take a moment to think of some ideas and then go around the room and ask each person to share an idea. Allow participants to “pass” if they don’t have an idea to offer. Record and discuss the ideas.
A simple, yet effective, method where group members write their ideas on slips of paper and pass them to the session leader. Participants can only write one idea per slip. The ideas are recorded and discussed. This technique allows quiet participants to participate equally.
A process that combines brainstorming and consensus-building to produce a final list. The key with this technique is quality not quantity. As ideas are presented, check with the group. If everyone feels that they can support the idea then the idea is recorded. This technique produces a final list of quality ideas where everyone has had input.
The next time you are looking to generate ideas in a session consider using a variation of brainstorming. The variations create a level playing field where all participants have an equal opportunity to contribute their ideas to the session.
Brainstorming is only one of over thirty presentation methods you’ll learn about in our Instructional Techniques for New Instructors workshop.