On any given day within any organization there are decisions to be made. These may be as mundane as where to go for lunch or what new product to put out on the market. There are several decision-making tools and techniques that a person or group can put to use with brainstorming being one of them.
Brainstorming is "a tool for generating as many ideas or solutions as possible to a problem or an issue" (Simon para 1). Brainstorming does not determine the solution that needs to be implemented rather it allows the showing of all possible solutions. This gives the group or team the opportunity to ensure that every viable, random solution imaginable has been taken into account. This technique will generate radical ideas, which could lead to solid results. In order to determine the best solution to a problem, it is important to consider all possible outcomes.
There are a few requirements needed in order to use brainstorming as an effective decision making tool (Bartle). First, there must be a problem to solve. If there is no real problem or if the issue is already clear-cut, there may not be a need to brainstorm. Therefore, the brainstorming activities would be useless.
There is also a necessity to be able to work as a team. When brainstorming activities begin for an organization, it is important that the group generates the ability and the want to work as a team, to make a decision. At my company, Kwikmed, this is a real problem. We hold meetings to talk about current issues, but we can never seem to get involved as a team. It always seems that the most aggressive speaker person gets their way and to date, it has typically led to the wrong course of action when attempting to solve our problems. It seems that whenever we implemented a solution, it created two new issues. Its always one step forward and two steps back.
The most important requirement of a brainstorming session is a facilitator. A facilitator is important because a designated person will be selected to draw out the different suggestions made by the group without imposing his or her opinions. A facilitator's only focus is to keep track of the ideas and to maintain order during the brainstorming session. This seems like an excellent approach, yet we have never used a facilitator at my company before. This would put an end to the aggressor approach that we are currently taking. I would like to mention the idea to my boss and will bring it up during our next staff meeting to see how well it is received.
According to Interpersonal skills in Organizations, the MGT250 text at the University of Phoenix, there are 7 basic guidelines for brainstorming:
1. Articulate the theme or the question
2. Set a time limit
3. Record the ideas for everyone to see
4. Quantity is important (generate as many ideas as possible)
5. Everyone should actively participate
6. All ideas are good ideas
7. Piggyback or build on ideas of others
These rules are set in place to ensure that all ideas are heard and that inhibitions are released. In order to stimulate creativity and innovative solutions, it is important not to criticize or judge ideas, as those actions will hinder and potentially stop the creative process. Only when the brainstorming session is finished should ideas be evaluated and picked apart. At Kwikmed, our meetings could not be further away from this approach. We are not even surpassing Step 1 listed above. We argue over and over as to whether issues are even valid. We are unable to even articulate the problems in most cases. This is probably why we are not able to come to effective conclusions very well. For example, we repeatedly received customer complaints about issues that were arising when customers were using their AOL accounts. Our customer service department consistently brought up this issue in our staff meetings. The IT and management executives were constantly dismissing the customer's claims right away and we were never able to expand...
References: Bartle, Phil Brainstorming: structured Group Decision Making. Retrieved October 25, 2004 from: www.airworkers.net/exchange/20030430.html
Janasz, Susanne De, Dowd, Karen O., Schneider, Beth, (2002). Interpersonal Skills in Organizations. [University of Phoenix Custom Edition e-text]. McGraw-Hill. Retrieved October 25, 2004 from: http://ecampus.phoenix.edu/secure/resource/resource.asp
Rohe, Duke. Post-It Brainstorming. Retrieved on October 25, 2004 from: http://shs.iienet.org/public/articles/PostitBrain.doc
Simon, Kerri. Effective Brainstorming. Retrieved on October 25, 2004 from www.isixsigma.com/library/content/c010401a.asp
The Step by Step Guide to Brainstorming. Retrieved on October 25, 2004 from www.jpb.com/creative/brainstorming.php
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