I will propose a session in which we brainstorm the act of brainstorming (because I love reflexive systems). That’s a technique groups can use to explore an issue or solve a problem. Below are notes I’ve prepared ahead of time. I’ll update this post after the session.
Preparation: What to Do Before you Brainstorm
- Explain the problem and its history clearly
- Invite people with different backgrounds and expertise
- Write the objective of the session prominently
- Lay out possible criteria for solutions
- Distribute rules to participants
Rules: Give these to Everyone Ahead of Time
- The more ideas the better
- Criticism is not allowed
- If you are passionate don’t overpower the group. Instead channel that energy to encourage others.
- Try to build on others’ ideas
- Keep the session fun, playful and absurd
- Wild ideas are wonderful
- Encourage everyone
- Groups of 5 or 6 people may work best
- Session under 30 minutes
- Participants should be comfortable
- Watch the clock
- Keep the discussion somewhat focused
Techniques to Generate Ideas
- Use Post-it notes. Leader asks a question. Participants write answers on post it notes even if they speak them aloud. They place them on a wall and arrange them in clusters. Then they suggest literal and metaphoric titles for each cluster.
- Explore different perspectives. What would a 19th Century farmer or a West Coast housewife think?
- List cliches about the subject. For example, while discussing the implications of technology people always say, “technology isn’t inherently bad, but it can be used for bad.”
- List movies and novels which depict the subject. Dr. Dan Novack used this technique well to explore possible futures of humanity.
- “Cube” the subject. Explore it in 6 ways: describe it, compare it, associate it, analyze it, apply it, argue for and against it)
- Ask the journalistic questions. Who, what when, where, why, how?)
How the Facilitator Can Revive a Slowed Session
- Read every 3rd idea
- Keep a few ideas private as backup
- Everyone can stand up
- Rearrange the furniture
- Continue the discussion while walking outside as a group
Specific Questions for the Group
- How to treat technology use (cell phones, laptops)? Are they distractions? Should they be outlawed all together? If not, what rules should govern their use during a brainstorm?
- FreeMind – Pros: free, open-source, light weight