Tool: Brainstorming

Usage: Generating Ideas

Brainstorming is an activity used to generate creative ideas and can be done individually or as a group. It is not effective as an analytical or decision making tool.
After defining the topic for the brainstorming session, come up with as many spontaneous ideas as possible and write them down. Accept all ideas, however ‘wild’ they might seem.

Key Rules for Brainstorming:

  • Quantity over quality; all ideas are acceptable
  • Judgement is suspended until the process is complete
  • Encourage ‘wild’ ideas
  • Every person and every idea has equal worth
  • Build on the ideas put forward by others – use existing ideas to generate new ones


Assemble the right people:

  • Involve individuals or representatives of teams that are affected by the issue or topic
  • An ideal group size is 12 but there can be more or less
  • Make sure that everyone participates.
  • Environment is important – take routine away from the situation (for example, consider holding the session away from the work premises).
  • Have the right equipment: post-it notes, pens, flip charts, etc.
  • Aim for 20-30 ideas in 5-7 minutes.

Nominal group technique

A variation on the standard brainstorming process is the Nominal Group Technique. This is a more structured approach to brainstorming that can prevent domination of the discussion by one person and encourages reserved group members to participate.

The process is as follows:

  1. Divide a larger group into smaller groups of five or six people.
  2. Present an open ended question.
  3. Each person brainstorms independently.
  4. Each person shares their ideas within their smaller group. Importantly, no criticism is applied to these ideas.
  5. Once all ideas are listed, and the group evaluates each idea and votes for their favourite(s) (voting can be anonymous).
  6. The outcome of the voting process is shared within the smaller group.
  7. Each small group presents their selected idea(s) to the larger group.

Once ideas have been generated ideas using either technique, an Affinity Diagram can be used to help organise the ideas.