Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 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 October 2015 regarding Brainstorming as an Analytic Technique specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.
Brainstorming is a modifier that is used to generate new ideas. There are various types of brainstorming, but they can generally fall under the categories of structured or unstructured. The use of structured brainstorming and the use of unstructured brainstorming can produce slightly different results as the means to produce the results are not the same. This is a very good technique to use in order to get the ideas flowing at the beginning of a project and provide a good starting point.
- Helps to generates new ideas by utilizing and merging different approaches of the participants
- Identifies key drivers in a problem
- Can help generate alternative hypothesizes, outcomes, or scenarios
- When structured, can direct groups toward a topic of focus
- When structured, reduces groupthink and minimizes dominant personalities
- Can incorporate members with diverse backgrounds to broaden range of idea generation
- Can be applied to complex problems
- When unstructured, dominating personalities can take over
- When unstructured, can result in groupthink
- When unstructured, can inhibit creative thinking
- Potential for the prevention of idea production or censorship
- The size of the brainstorming group should be determined appropriately
- Structured brainstorming is more time intensive
- Requires consideration toward group makeup
- Potential to lead down a “rabbit hole” if group becomes too narrowed
- No specific set of rules or steps for unstructured brainstorming
Nominal group technique was used as a form of brainstorming, and involves a facilitator and members of a team. The facilitator asks an open ended question, and the participants write down their ideas on a piece of paper or 3x5 note card. After the silent brainstorming session, the facilitator writes each member's idea on a white board. The ideas can be separated into categories or voted by each participant. If participants vote for which ideas to pursue, three votes are allotted for each member. The ideas generated give the team a general direction to pursue a topic or tasking the group is responsible for.
Personal Application of Technique:
For the exercise the nominal group technique was used as a form of structured brainstorming. The session begins with a facilitator asking an open ended question; for the exercise the question asked was, “How does ISIS finance their operations?” All the participants are given 5-10 minutes to write their ideas on a piece of paper. After the silent brainstorming session the facilitator asks each participant for one idea in a round robin fashion, and writes down the idea on the whiteboard. After all ideas are exhausted, the ideas are separated into categories.