!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Brainstorming in Practice - Advice from Matt Bowen

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Brainstorming in Practice - Advice from Matt Bowen

As a follow-on to my recent post concerning research by Karan Girotra, Christian Terwiesch, and Karl Ulrich investigating the factors that affect the outcome of brainstorming, I'd mention an article from the July 24 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The article is an edited version of an interview Kelly Spors conducted with Matt Bowen, CEO of Aloft Group, Inc., a small marketing firm in Newburyport, MA. What was interesting to me about the interview, which centers on Bowen's advice for making brainstorming effective, is how closely it tracks with the aforementioned research.

Bowen offers recommendations based on his own experience that fill in details of what effective brainstorming looks like in practice:
  • Rotate the facilitator "so that each employee gets the chance to lead and learn."

  • Encapsulate the aim of the brainstorming session in a single sentence, and circulate this statement of the aim a day or two in advance to get people started thinking about it.

  • Keep the maximum length of the session to an hour, and keep the number of people down to no more than 5-7 (generally speaking).

  • Open the session by reminding people of its aim and of the ground rules (e.g., rules against critiquing and editing the ideas offered).

  • Build on other people's ideas.

  • Bring in people from other departments to serve as "agitators" with perspectives different from those of the rest of the group.

  • Have the facilitator establish criteria for evaluating the ideas the brainstorming generates. (E.g., it may be that the idea "has to be able to be implemented in six weeks or less.") Then have the facilitator assemble "a group of people to rate the ideas on these criteria. It doesn't necessarily have to be the same group of employees who originally came up with the ideas."
It is the final point that most strikingly echoes the findings of Girotra, Terwiesch, and Ulrich.


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