# Brainstorming

# Phase: 🎨 Problem shaping
Focus: Diverge


Time commitment: 1-2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Materials needed: Meeting space (physical or virtual), whiteboard and stickies (physical or virtual)
Who should participate: Anyone on the team (users, too!)
Best for: Kicking off divergent thinking by accumulating many ideas quickly and providing material for later aggregation or consolidation

# About this tool

Brainstorming is such a ubiquitous tool that it hardly needs explanation: Get a group (of any size) of people together and solicit a large number of solutions or ideas related to a particular topic or problem. That said, there are a number of factors involved in brainstorming that can help make your exercise both more successful and more fun.

  • Remember that at this stage of divergent problem shaping, quantity is always better than quality. There's no such thing as a wrong, stupid or silly idea: in fact, "bad" ideas can generate more than their weight in good ones!
  • Embrace the irrelevant. The Synectics (opens new window) problem-solving methodology has a useful approach to this: if you understand the emotional or "irrational" parts of the problem β€” aspects sometimes dismissed as irrelevant β€” you're more effective when it comes to thinking of solutions.
  • Be sure not to go too far down one path, either as an individual or as a group. Boeing's Larry Loftis encouraged a "seven ways" approach to brainstorming β€” not seven versions of the same thing, but seven different ways to solve the same problem or address the same issue. β€œThe first two or three come very easily,” Loftis is quoted as saying (opens new window), β€œbut then it becomes very difficult to come up with those other solutions."
  • When brainstorming, make the conscious decision as a group to either consider multiple user groups (particularly considering the areas in which they may overlap) or decide to focus on only one. If only part of your group considers multiple user personas, you may walk away with incomplete ideas without you even knowing it.
  • Don't forget to explore other approaches to brainstorming, like limiting your ideation only to feature ideas, or by exploring how an existing product or company might approach your problem.
  • Finally, consider group size. More than six or eight people? Break into smaller groups so each person's idea can be heard by the others as they jot them down and place them on the wall.