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Facilitation: Brainstorming

Generate the Best Thinking of a Group

Tips and ideas to improve your facilitation skills:   

1. Facilitator Guide: Handbook of facilitation skills

2. Brainstorming: Tap the best thinking of a group

3. Discussion Tips: Strategies to conduct meaningful and lively discussion

4. Evaluation Form: A three-aspect evaluation form

5. Visual Aids: Common sense tips for effective visual aid use 


Visit us often---New activities are frequently added    


When done effectively, brainstorming is a group process that can help a team, class, or committee draw out its best thinking.  By getting everyone involved the group can generate a creative and divergent energy that frequently leads to new ideas, fresh perspectives, and meaningful solutions. In addition, group brainstorming pulls everyone into the process and therefore establishes a baseline for ownership and involvement.

  Brainstorming Ground Rules

  1. Everyone must be involved.  Go around the group and have everyone offer something to the process.

  2. Allow ideas to flow without judgment.  Make it clear that there are no wrong answers.

  3. Encourage people to stretch their thinking.  You may want to include a round robin where participants offer an “out-of-the-box” idea.

  4. Cross-pollinate ideas by asking participants to build off the ideas of others. 

  5. Have fun with ideas

  6. Record all responses  

Good Books on Brainstorming and Creative Problem Solving



Brainstorming Steps--Seven steps to successful brainstorming

  1. Clarification. Clarify the purpose for the brainstorming by carefully defining the topic and expectations.  Don’t forget to review the ground rules.  You may want to send out a Topic/Problem e-mail before the session in which you explain the purpose of the session, define terms, give examples, etc.  

  2. Set the Clock.  Set a time limit for brainstorming, usually 15 to 25 minutes will suffice.  Don’t drag out the process; end while the energy level is still active.

  3. Record all ideas Have a volunteer record all ideas on a white board or flip chart so all can see.

  4. Climate Control.  Keep the energy high by remaining uncritical, enthusiastic, and encouraging.  Keep things moving.   Don’t allow a participant to drag out a response and risk sapping the enthusiasm of the group.

  5. Cull the ideas.  When the brainstorming time is up, work through the process of eliminating duplicate ideas, combining similar ideas, and removing ideas that aren’t relevant to the purpose.

  6. Process the Ideas Left Standing.  To process your brainstormed ideas first make certain that everyone is clear about what the ideas are and what they imply.  Then evaluate each idea considering such things as workability, resources required, timing, viability, etc. Your group may then rank the ideas in priority order.

  7. Establish Next Steps. Set a course of implementation.  This means identifying such things as action items, people to be involved, resources needed, responsibilities, timelines, etc.  

Brainstorming Variations: Below are a few different formats for your brainstorming sessions.

A. Best Idea Brainstorming After defining and clarifying the topic, each person writes down one idea on an index card.  Then partners share their ideas with one another and together write a “best” idea.  These partner ideas are then listed, discussed, culled, and prioritized by the full group.

B. Post It Note Brainstorming   Divide the full group in groups of three to five (form at least three different small groups).  Each small group brainstorms and writes their ideas on Post It notes.  After a set time, the full group reconvenes and the Post It notes are posted and grouped into categories, themes, or commonalities.  The best idea is pulled out of each category by the full group.

C. Round Robin Brainstorming   After posing the question or topic, move clockwise around the table and have each person give one response (record the ideas).  Keep going around the circle until everyone has passed.  Then discuss the ideas given.

D. Display Brainstorming   Divide the full group into small groups.  Each small group works at a flip chart and brainstorms.  After a set time, groups settle on their best idea and subsequently “display” it at their station. The other groups then rotate from station to station and weigh the pros and cons of each displayed idea.  After spending time at each station, the full group reconvenes and settles on the best idea(s).  

E. E-Mail Brainstorming  Using e-mail the facilitator solicits ideas from individual team members.  Replies are sent back to the facilitator who compiles them and sends them back out to the team members for further responses.

F. Questioning Brainstorming    The facilitator poses the topic to be brainstormed.  Then the group asks questions about the topic.  This is done in a rapid fire way without worrying about answers.  The questions are recorded.  After a set time for question generation, the group brainstorms by reacting to the questions.

G. Cluster Brainstorming   The group brainstorms by completing a cluster chart like the one below.  The blue circles are key headings or categories.