Most people have heard of brainstorming and probably been involved in some type of brainstorming exercise; however, facilitated brainstorming is much different than simply gathering in a small group and sharing ideas. Facilitated brainstorming is a generative exercise, which involves a moderator who keeps the group focused on the exercise and tracks all of the participants’ ideas. Here are some guidelines for facilitating a brainstorming session:
Environment and Participants
- Host the brainstorming session in an environment that encourages participants to be motivated and creative. For example, a room without windows or good lighting is unlikely to motivate participants. If possible, host the session off-site to inspire fresh perspectives. To inspire creativity and energize the group, decorate the room according to the theme of the project.
- Diverse groups of 8 to 10 participants work best; these may include project team members (designers, developers, marketing professionals, user experience experts, etc.), Subject Matter Experts, and intended users (consumers).
- Provide participants with paper and colored markers.
- To inspire playfulness and creativity, place an assortment of toys, gadgets, and tools on the table, which relate to the theme of the project.
- Serve snacks and refreshments to participants to maintain their energy levels.
- The Facilitator may use Post-It flip charts and Sharpie markers to write down participants’ ideas as they are called out. Post-It flip charts are recommended because they are portable and can be stuck to the walls and re-arranged as needed.
- The Facilitator begins with a creative warm-up exercise to break the ice.
- The Facilitator focuses on moderating the session and does not contribute his or her ideas during brainstorming.
- The Facilitator encourages creativity — there are no right or wrong ideas.
- At first, the Facilitator tells participants to come up with as many ideas as possible, potentially more than 100, and writes them down as participants call them out.
- Participants can build on others’ ideas that have been written down.
At the end of the session, the Facilitator asks participants to (privately) vote on their favorite ideas, which the group may describe in more detail to determine whether or not the project team should integrate them into the development of the application or website.