Technique 6.11 Basic Guidelines of Brainstorming

Brainstorming is part of being creative; some enhancing guidelines need to be followed for it to be successful.

Do you follow the guidelines of brainstorming in your sessions? Answer "yes" or "no"




i) Criticism is actively discouraged


ii) Piggybacking off ideas of others


iii) Are all ideas recorded without censorship


iv) Quantity is more important than quality of ideas


v) People listen to ideas of others


vi) No personal attacks allowed


vii) Encourage outrageous, ridiculous ideas


viii) Look for positives of an ideas before negatives


ix) Treat everyone with respect


x) Emotions allowed to occur


xi) Constant interruptions are allowed


If any "no" answers, then the effectiveness of the creativity of brainstorming will be reduced

Notes to answers

Brainstorming is an important part of being creative and some guidelines are

1 Rule out criticism (evaluation has no part in a brainstorming session)

2 "Free wheeling" is welcome and "piggybacking" your ideas off others' is encouraged

3 All ideas offered are recorded without censorship ‐ even wild ideas are recorded

4 Quantity is encouraged without reference to quality ‐ the more ideas, the greater likelihood of useful ideas emerging

5 Listen to others' ideas and look for combinations of ideas, including linking of ideas and improvements.

6 Creative thinking can only blossom in an environment where there is no possibility of personal attack. Furthermore, value everyone's contribution, regardless of how it might appear on first impression. Remember that seeds of brilliance may be contained in a notion that at first looks ridiculous, or the idea may stimulate another idea. Look for what is right in an idea before you look for what is wrong

7 Treat everyone with respect - make sure that each person has an opportunity to contribute. Encourage everyone to participate, including the introverts and junior staff who may feel intimidated. Be open to contrasting points of view; don't dismiss differences of opinion, beliefs, values or ideas. Conflict often leads to creativity. Use opposing perspectives to create a better framework

8 Need to control emotions but not suppress them

9 Allow constant interruptions as this means that you rarely start up again where you left off and may allow a different angle to develop


Not appreciating the value of informal brainstorming that can occur from a random conversations and/or relationships. Associated with this is the need to be careful of groupthink and too many rules, regulations, processes, etc. The latter elements can be introduced for understandable reasons such as to prevent mishaps or to encourage the right behaviours or keep control. On the other hand, these can hinder creativity.

Need to be careful of creating complex processes, etc, to encourage the generation of ideas as these processes can hinder creativity. On the other hand, need to be careful of over-simplifying things, such as 6 steps to creativity, as this can restrict creativity. More often than not, the creative ideas involve discovering obscure or subtle elements that are already present but we have not realized their importance.

(sources: Edward deBono, 1993; Neville Smith et al, 1990; Robert Kriegel et al, 1996; Piers Dudgeon, 2001; Fiona Smith, 2010a)

Reasons Brainstorming Often Fails

Non-threatening environment is not established

Someone becomes censor, ie "... I will summarise that..."

A dominating individual manipulates the session

Lack of structure permits secondary goals to dominate

The dynamics of the group do not encourage divergent and unpredictable thinking

Purpose and relevance are not clear to participants

Problem not suited to brainstorming, ie too general

Problem is too narrowly defined so that it restricts the thinking process

"...One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea..."

Walter Bagehot as quoted by Kerry Patterson et al, 1996

(sources: Edward deBono, 1993; Neville Smith et al, 1990; Kerry Patterson et al, 1996)


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