Tools: Brainstorming


Brainstorming is a creative group process for generating many ideas on a given subject in a short period of time. The goal of a brainstorming session is to generate as many ideas as possible. It is almost always more productive than one person creating ideas alone.


  1. brainstormSelect a topic. Display the topic in front of the Team so they keep it in mind through the activity.
  2. Assign a recorder.
  3. Set a time limit. Often somewhere between five and ten minutes is best. Keep it rather short.
  4. Give Participants about two minutes to write down their initial ideas before starting the open discussion.
  5. Take turns giving input. When ideas begin to dry up, you can accept ideas from anyone at any time.
  6. Record each idea on a flipchart or whiteboard. It is important that the entire Team is able to see all the ideas.
  7. Continue until ideas “dry up” or time runs out.
  8. Let the topic incubate for an appropriate time.
  9. Review the list and add new ideas.

Hints and Cautions

  • Ask each group member for input. This might start with an “open forum” where individuals just chime in; then you might go around the room one by one and give each individual multiple chances to contribute.
  • Group members without an idea can say “pass.”
  • Only one idea should be given by each participant on a turn.
  • DO NOT evaluate, criticize, praise or lobby an idea.
  • Keep the pace fast.
  • Any idea is OK (You’re more interested in the quantity of ideas than the quality at this point).
  • Write down just key thoughts and phrases — be certain they are in the actual words of the submitter.  Never rephrase a participant’s statement.


Brainstorming can be used any time when lots of ideas are needed on a given subject.
A brainstorming session almost always brings out ideas even when the group doesn’t seem to have any ideas on a particular subject.

Guidelines for Successful Brainstorming

  • Make NO evaluations (negative or positive)
  • Quantity is more important than quality of ideas
  • Free-wheel (be wild – think of radical ideas)
  • Hitchhike (piggyback on another idea)
  • Use your five senses
  • Think of the opposite
  • Everyone contributes (in sequence or randomly)
  • If it’s your turn and you don’t have an idea, just say “Pass”
  • Record all ideas onto a flip chart