Thursday, May 3, 2012

Summary of Findings (Green Team): Brainstorming (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 12 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in May 2012 regarding Brainstorming specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility, its ability to effectively use unstructured data and its ease of communication to a decision maker.

Brainstorming is a group or individual creativity modifier by which efforts are made to generate a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its member(s). There are many types of brainstorming, including nominal, round robin and open discussion. Brainstorming works best in a partially structured environment, where participants follow [structured] rules that govern the group process. The modifier is best used in the beginning of the project, as this is the point at which new ideas are most valuable. Findings can be added throughout the project. This is a classic Divergent technique.To further the success of brainstorming, convergent techniques can be used to prioritize, group and filter ideas.

The technique is effective at idea generation, simple to use (although difficult to use effectively), applicable to a variety of problems/projects, and does effectively use unstructured data, though the modifier may engender groupthink and hinder creativity.

  • Easy method to conduct
  • Many methods of brainstorming
  • Can be customized to different personality types
  • Once done can be easily expanded
  • If participants come prepared, there are improved results

  • Subject to groupthink in open discussion
  • Easy to become sidetracked/distracted
  • Critics may discourage participation
  • Strangers within the group make it harder to stimulate discussion and idea generation
  • Subject to anchoring based upon other ideas

The CIA offers an excellent run-down of their process of brainstorming. A step by step summary is available here.

Personal Application of Technique:
The exercise in class compared two methods of brainstorming: nominal and open discussion. Both groups were asked the same question: “What would you like to see in the new Intel building?”

The nominal team had ten minutes to compile individual lists. Once the ten minutes were done, the lists were combined. The open discussion group spent the same ten minutes as a group discussing the question.

At the end of the ten minutes, the open discussion team had compiled a list of 34 items, while the nominal team had a list of over 125 items. The results of the application confirmed the findings from many of the readings of the week.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

If done wrong, the evidence suggests it is not worthwhile. However, when used with both divergent and convergent techniques it can be useful.

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