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The Step by Step Guide to

Brainstorming can be an effective way to generate lots of ideas and then determine which idea(s) best solves the problem. Brainstorming is most effective with larger groups of people and should be performed in a relaxed environment. If participants feel free to be silly, they'll stretch their minds more and therefore produce more creative ideas.

In order to brainstorm, you will need either a chalkboard, white-board or software tool (such as Sylvia, our new web based software for brainstorming). The brainstorm session organiser should focus on writing ideas on the board.

Brainstorming works best when you have a larger group of varied people. If you are a division in a company, invite people from other divisions to participate. Try to get as varied a group as possible to participate - this will result in the widest and most creative range of ideas.

Step by Step

  1. Define your problem (please note that the word "problem" is not necessarily negative - your problem could be "We need a new product for the Christmas season" or "How can we effectively use our departmental budget surplus for this year?"). Write out your problem concisely and make sure that everyone understands the problem and is in agreement with the way it is worded. There is no need to put a lot of restrictions on your problem at this time.

  2. Give yourselves a time limit - we recommend around 25 minutes, but experience will show how much time is required. Larger groups may need more time to get everyone's ideas out.

  3. Everyone must shout out solutions to the problem while one person writes them out or enters them into BrainStormer. There must be ABSOLUTELY NO CRITICIZING OF IDEAS. No matter how daft, how impossible or how silly an idea is, it must be written down. Laughing is to be encouraged. Criticism is not. Why? Because you want to encourage the free flow of ideas and as soon as participants of the brainstorming session begin to fear criticism of their ideas, they'll stop generating ideas. Moreover, Ideas that first seem silly may prove to be very good or may lead to ideas that are very good.

  4. Once your time is up, select the five ideas which you like best. Make sure everyone involved in the brainstorming session is in agreement.

  5. Write down about five criteria for judging which ideas best solve your problem. Criteria should start with the word "should", for example, "it should be cost effective", "it should be legal", "it should be possible to finish before July 15", etc.

  6. Give each idea a score of 0 to 5 points depending on how well it meets each criterion. Once all of the ideas have been scored for each criterion, add up the scores.

  7. The idea with the highest score will best solve your problem. But you should keep a record of all of your best ideas and their scores in case your best idea turns out not to be workable.

Would you like a more detailed guide to setting up and managing effective brainstorming sessions? If so, learn about our Step by Step Report: How to Manage Effective Brainstorming Sessions (

Other BrainStorming tools and resources from JPB

  • Sylvia is a web based BrainStorming tool that allows you to BrainStorm with colleagues, associates, customers and others anywhere in the world. Sylvia follows traditional BrainStorming techniques as described above. You can even try out Sylvia web based brainstorming free of charge.

  • BrainStormer is our BrainStorming software for use by individuals and for meetings - it's perfect for use with a beamer during group BrainStorming sessions.

by Jeffrey Baumgartner
1997,2002,2003 JPB Creative Co, Ltd, Bwiti BVBA