Brainstorming is a group format problem-solving/ creativity technique, in which a group of people uses their collective intelligence to approach a creative problem. This technique inspires people to come up with creative ideas. Brainstorming sessions should be used at the very beginning of a project and should address a specific question. The duration of the session can be short or long depending on the nature of research, the quality as well as quantity of ideas generated.

Quick details: Brainstorming

Structure: Semi-structured, Unstructured

Preparation: Topic, Participant recruitment

Deliverables: Notes, Outcomes, Documentation

More about Brainstorming

Usually, brainstorming is a qualitative research method performed with the objective of generating as many fresh and creative ideas as possible, collectively from the participants. Furthermore, brainstorming can be both structured or unstructured and can be part of a workshop, a focus group or an unfocus group. 

Depending on the format chosen, there can be a facilitator or moderator to elicit information from this activity. In the absence of a facilitator, a researcher or observer can document all the ideas being generated to evaluate, shortlist and draft the results from session.


Advantages of Brainstorming

1. Thought diversity

One can get a large number of diverse ideas from different participants.

2. Quick idea generation

With more individuals involved in the activity, many ideas  can be generated quickly.

3. Creative

Stimulates creative problem solving within the group.


Disadvantages of Brainstorming

1. High costs

Is more expensive than online surveys.

2. Time consuming

Is more time-consuming than a few other methods.

3. Hampers innovation

May not result in great and innovative ideas from a single session. Again, too many participants may not prove to be beneficial in new idea generation.

4. Fear of judgment & inauthenticity

Participants afraid of getting judged for their ideas, may not be honest or open during the session.

Think Design's recommendation

Brainstorming as a method is productive when it is followed up with actionable items. Since the purpose of brainstorming is to come up with many ideas, it needs a conclusive exercise on the end to consolidate them action those ideas: Unless this is done, there is a risk of people losing seriousness in this practice; and we end up wasting productive time of individuals involved.

Decision making conventions: It may be a good idea to agree upon decision making conventions before or while concluding a brainstorming exercise. Generally speaking, there are four ways we can make decisions:

  • Consensus: Arrive at a decision based on voting and choosing those alternatives that are voted highest.
  • Qualified consensus: Arrive at a consensus first and let the most qualified person in the group or a group leader choose what is right.
  • Directive: Let the moderator or the group leader decide/ set a direction to take a decision. In this case, though there may be divergent ideas the moderator will filter them through a larger direction.
  • Authoritative: Once the group comes up with ideas/ solutions, the leader or authority will take a decision on his instinct. This is appropriate in cases where the authority takes full accountability of decisions and his instinct is far more informed than the rest.
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