27/05/2014, by


Brainstorming: some tips and ideas

Whether you’re preparing your next group seminar talk, an oral presentation or you need to write a report for your supervisor or a grant proposal (OMG!), a brainstorming session can be useful.

You can do it on your own or in a group, which is usually very productive.

The Wikipedia defines “brainstorming” as ”a group or individual creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its member(s).”

Here are some tips:

1. Your attitude matters: Be very open. Don’t reject ideas or suggestions, withhold comment on or evaluation of items during the initial brainstorming session. Accept every suggestion. Respect others and their ideas. Be uninhibited and imaginative. This applies to individual sessions: you need ideas, so just write them down without thinking whether they’re good or useful.

2. Set a time limit based on whether you’re brainstorming on your own or based on the number of fellow brainstormers — five minutes, fifteen minutes, half an hour. Longer periods aren’t recommended.

3. Create a mind map (please revisit my previous post “How Can I Turn My Mess of Ideas Into Something Organized and Useful?“), a constellation of main topics and subtopics or of related points, on a large sheet of paper, a whiteboard, or another surface that all participants can see.

4. Don’t go into details about any item, though other items inspired by a detail can be added to the list.

5. Don’t stop the initial brainstorming session until the time is up. If the individual’s or group’s “inspiration” dries up, review the list to prompt new items, or explore details or tangents.

6. If, despite the additional efforts described in the previous point, no new ideas are produced, search for random terms in a related document or publication, a dictionary (well, maybe not too useful if you’re looking for scientific ideas), or any written content.

7. Don’t stop brainstorming just because you think you’ve found an ideal suggestion/idea, it might be ideal at the moment but not at the end of the session! Mark the item for emphasis and keep brainstorming.

At the end of the session, organise the list sequentially or by headings and subheadings. Then discuss the merits of the list items and reduce the list to a manageable number of items.

If the goal is to select or recommend one item or a short list and then report results to one or more other people, produce those results and, if necessary, draft a proposal or assign brainstorming group members to do so after the meeting. Then, distribute/use the results!

Happy brainstorming!

P.S. Oh, by the way… it seems that brainstorms works best when we are in a bad mood  O.o Article here

Image by: Lion Kimbro

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