Brainstorming is a method that generates imaginative and creative solutions to a problem. With this method, members are encouraged to come up with extreme and in some cases, outlandish methods of solving the problem. They are encouraged to build on one another’s ideas; criticism of any generated idea is forbidden. Through this process, members see their individual contribution entering into the decision-making process and thus tend to be more accepting of the final decision.1
When a team leader encourages the sharing of ideas and creativity among those he is leading, the group expands beyond itself. Brainstorming is a process that can bring out the creative, hidden talents of the team, and the “collective mind of the group” is always much greater than that of any one individual.2
Each team member has a vast store of ideas available at any given moment. Regrettably, this resource often goes untapped. One can create a flurry of activity by using the dynamics of a group. The result is frequently the unleashing of the team’s creativity.3
6 Basic Guidelines to Brainstorming
Buchholz, Roth, and Hess offer six basic guidelines to aid an organization in the brainstorming process.
First, go for quantity rather than quality. The goal in any brainstorming situation is to bring forth as many ideas and visions as possible, not to stifle the team.
Second, effective brainstorming must have time limits. The limit of time will act as a motivation for people to think more rapidly and be more extensive in their thought process.
Third, an effort should be made to include all ideas. The sharing of all ideas, no matter how inclusive they may be, is important at this point in team development.
Fourth, it is absolutely essential to keep a record of all the brainstorming that is taking place and to write it down. A record of all ideas will provide a reference to call upon at a later date.
The fifth guideline given by the three authors is unique: the leader of a team is called upon to be childlike. To be childlike, in a seeking and experimental way, is a constructive character trait to possess; conversely, to be childish (selfish and self-centered) is a destructive character trait.
Sixth, humorous moments can be a helpful tool in team development. “One good way to judge the success of a brainstorming session is by how much laughter rings out.”4 The three authors emphasize that having a sense of humor is absolutely necessary. Laughter will enhance the sessions and create a relaxing atmosphere for creativity.
In the end, a team will likely develop as ideas are shared and discussed in a friendly atmosphere.
- Glenn H. Varney, Building Productive Teams, 82.
- Steve Buchholz, Thomas Roth, and Karen Hess, eds., Creating the High Performance Team (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1987), 142.
- Creating the High Performance Team, 142.
- Creating the High Performance Team, 142., 143.