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Brainstorming is an idea-generating technique pioneered by Alex Osborn who was an advertising executive. A group of people put forward their ideas as they think of them, so that each idea has the opportunity to build on other ideas.

Brainstorming creates an atmosphere of freedom which is maintained by four basic rules:

Brainstorming methods

There three main brainstorming methods:

All of these methods have their own advantages and disadvantages as shown below:

Free Wheeling

MethodMembers are encouraged to call out ideas freely and randomly until no one has anything further to add. Ideas are written on a flip chart exactly as they are stated — any editing is a form of judging. Of course, you don't have to use a flip chart or whiteboard - especially if the participants don't share the same location. There are some amazing 'virtual whiteboard' software packages available like Mural, Miro, etc. where team members can participate online from around the world. A good way to start a project and get the team to agree goals, phases, timescales, roles & responsibilities and technical strategy.*

AdvantagesSpontaneous and open — consequently members are apt to open up and think along more creative lines.
DisadvantagesIndividuals can dominate session. Quiet members may be reluctant to participate. Confusion may result from too many people talking at the same time.

Round Robin

MethodEach member is asked in turn to contribute an idea. Ideas are written on a flip chart. Members can decline to contribute an idea by saying: ‘Pass.’ The brainstorming is continued until there is a complete round of passes.
AdvantagesDifficult for individuals to dominate. Discussion is focused with less chance of straying. Everyone is encouraged to participate. Ideal for building.
DisadvantagesAnxiety may develop while people are waiting for their turn — possibly causing ideas to be forgotten.

Slips of Paper

MethodMembers write down as many ideas as they can imagine. The slips of paper are collected in and the results are written on a flip chart.
AdvantagesAll contributions are anonymous. Shy people are free to express ideas.
DisadvantagesCreativity may be blocked because there can be no building. The group may not understand someting that is written on a slip of paper.

* Thanks Xzsistor Lab (@xzistor) for the 'virtual whiteboard' suggestion.

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