Saturday 4 December 2021

Brainstorming Techniques in Innovation

The development of the company's innovation strategy and the implementation of local innovation projects are associated with regular management research and problems that arise at almost every stage of these processes. Decision-making from the perspective of problem-oriented thinking requires management to involve special forms of teamwork. Brainstorming (MS) is one of the effective means of creative group activity, which is very suitable for innovation.

Like any popular technique, the practice of brainstorming or brainstorming has acquired a number of legends and myths. One of these stories says that even in the days of the ancient Norman Vikings, there was a tradition to gather the whole team in the center of the boat in order to quickly find a way out of a critical situation and express their ideas in a circle.

Each of the warriors, from the youngest to the leader, took turns shouting out the vision of the decision, and the helmsman summed up and made a choice. It seems that such a "bicycle has been reinvented" in every generation and in every nation, because its rules fit into the logic of ordinary common sense in managing people.

With the development of management as a scientific methodology, many management tools began to be assigned to authors in modified interpretations. This was especially evident in the American scientific creativity of the last century. The brainstorming method is a vivid metaphorical name for the collective activation of creative thinking, which journalist, writer and manager Alex Osborne introduced into the business culture of the West in the 40-50s.

The name of the technique "brainstorming" (Brainstorming), became popular first in America, then in Europe. By the way, this method of collective generation of ideas was widely used in the Research Institute, the Design Bureau of the USSR, but it was more often called the method of brainstorming.

The rules of brainstorming in the Soviet years were somewhat different from modern ones. However, the pace of life in scientific institutions, especially during the period of stagnation, was lower. By the will of fate in the 80s, I attended one of these events held in the design bureau of the branch institute in the field of mechanical engineering. Two competing departments worked on related project tasks. In one of the key projects, a technical problem arose that the development team could not cope with. At the Technical Council of the Design Bureau, it was proposed to hold a prefabricated seminar on the topic "Increasing the speed of development of the L node with a simultaneous improvement in the quality of the output parameters of the M unit". Brainsion was chosen as the form of the seminar.

It must be admitted that the best leaders of the Soviet formation were well versed in the intricacies of managerial psychology and even sometimes pedagogy. And it is the sociology-psychological patterns of business communications that played (and still play) a key role in increasing creativity in meetings. To brainstorm at that time was appointed by the ISP on a problematic topic. He gave priority to the goals and objectives of the event. After their successful formulation, the composition of the seminar participants was carefully discussed with the head of the personnel department.

The methodology of the event involved the formation of two groups: the generation of ideas and their selection. The first included experienced and young designers, technologists from both departments (number - 10 participants), the second order appointed three members of the scientific and technical council and two deputy heads of the institute. At the appointed time, members of the generation group were invited to the seminar. A report was made by one of the leading designers in the course of the ROC and the difficulties encountered. Then the ISP took the floor. Very clearly and calmly, he stated that now colleagues will have to express their thoughts on what solution will speed up the design without losing the quality of the product. A taboo has been imposed on any kind of criticism.

In the next stage, a discussion began without criticism, which lasted one hour. They spoke at random, all the ideas expressed were recorded by the secretary. A five-minute smoke break was appointed, during which the discussion becoming more acute, the activity of informal leaders of the team increased, and a dispute arose. Gradually, the discussion moved to the designers' room. The ISU gently but firmly directed the speakers, recalling the key issue, purpose and objectives of the seminar. So another 30 minutes of brainstorming passed. In total, about 40 sentences were generated, they were anonymously listed on the table of the presenter. The ISO summed up the seminar and thanked those present for their participation.

A day later, a group evaluating ideas met. Brainstorming was continued in a new phase, much calmer than the previous stage. The members of the group came already prepared with notes in the margins of the lists provided to them in advance. One of the deputy directors made a proposal on the criteria for selecting ideas, and the controversy first unfolded around this issue. When it was settled, the discussion and vote were quick and productive. What drew attention at that moment? There was a feeling that the procedure was delayed and too slow, but the result was very good, and the solution was effective.

Brainstorming ideas

Principles and rules of brainstorming

Over the past decades, not only the system has changed in Russia, but also the management culture. The speed of business events has increased dramatically, labor productivity on a national scale has decreased, and business culture has become much more variegated. Communication technologies have received significant development, but the quality of contacts has deteriorated. The responsibility of the persons solving the tasks has become lower in principle, creativity has shifted to the field of personal interests to the detriment of the interests of the cause. Therefore, there is a feeling that the quality of the solutions developed in the 70-80s was higher not only in our country, but also in the West. However, there is one interesting "BUT": the sophistication and effectiveness of such a method as brainsuring has become almost flawless!

The reason lies in the general complication of doing business, an increase in the number of risk factors, in the globalization of activities and the openness of the economy. This trend is objective and inevitable, especially in the context of an innovative challenge and a multiple aggravation of competition in international markets. Brainstorming is common in management, but its potential is far from being exhausted in the economy of the innovative type, since the problem areas are only becoming more. Forecasting and setting an innovative task, assessing, ranking and managing risks, research and development, functional transitions to commercialization and procedural cycles - all this only increases the number of applications of the method.

By discussion, for the purposes of the topic under consideration, we agree to understand a public discussion of a problem related to innovation, which allows or prohibits a dispute between participants based on the arguments of the thesis-judgment expressed. The rules of brainstorming allow a debatable form in which the dispute is nullified, since in an argument it is very difficult not to fall into criticism when opposing, which is unacceptable for this technique. Criticism is a key stupor of creativity in collective creative activity.

The purpose of brainstorming is to obtain a non-trivial result of solving a problem by separating the stages of generating and selecting ideas. The task of the first stage is to obtain the maximum number of proposals without filtering them and critically analyzing them for "wildness", absurdity, inadequacy, inadequacy, unreliability, etc. The result of the selection stage is ideas that have received formulations that are ready for the transition to the planning phase. The principles of organizing and conducting a brainstorming session are as follows.

  • Change of the usual environment, the off-site nature of the event for the purposes of effectiveness.
  • The principle of a special energy (psycho-emotional) mood of the presenter and participants.
  • Search for the interactive effect of "cross-pollination", when previous speeches encourage a new expression of the position.
  • Searching for ideas, not building plans.
  • The principle of priority of quantity over quality of ideas.
  • The principle of abandoning subjective evaluation at the stage of generating ideas.
  • The principle of suppressing polemics on the part of opponents of any type.
  • The principle of focusing on the problem and the topic of discussion.
  • The principle of equidistant of the presenter from the participants in both groups.

The rules for brainstorming at the stage of generating ideas are as follows:

  • imposing taboos on criticism of sentences in any form (verbal and non-verbal);
  • creation of internal states and a special atmosphere with a slight positive attitude;
  • a rule for arranging participants in a circle with a common visual contact;
  • the leader and assistant are held together near the board or flipchart;
  • protecting the event from organizational failures, ensuring its smoothness;
  • encouraging judgments and ideas, especially insights, fantasies and creativity, expressed in a concise manner;
  • a phase supporting freedom of association and creativity;
  • limiting the time limit to 1 astronomical hour;
  • the rule of ending the assault on a positive attitude and on the rise;
  • announcement of a break in case of a decrease in the activity of participants.

Algorithm for applying the method

The rules described in the previous section are based on the stage of generating ideas. But before this stage, there are still a lot of tasks that the task director and the moderator appointed responsible for the meeting must perform. The main stages of brainstorming are preceded by a large preparatory work of the so-called zero stage,its sequence consists of actions:

  • formulating a key problem that brainstorming is designed to solve;
  • defining the objectives of the generating group meeting;
  • selection and selection of a candidate for the role of moderator of the meeting;
  • setting and accepting the brainstorming task;
  • correction of the task in the course of its elaboration at the stage of selection of ideas;
  • selection of participants in the group of idea generation;
  • selection of analysts in the group of evaluation and formalization of ideas;
  • selection of participants in the group of contraide generation (for individual modifications of the method);
  • preparation of premises, equipment, boards, accessories;
  • appointment of a meeting secretary and distribution of roles among participants;
  • preparation of the event scenario (in some cases);
  • the psychological mood of the moderator to the meeting.

The first stage is the generation of ideas. The venue and time of the main meeting is important because it requires the creation of a special atmosphere of the event and a special attitude of the participants to work so that they are not distracted from immersion in the creative process. The method of brainstorming most often describes in detail the generation stage, which does not quite fully reflect the essence of the technique. This stage is much easier to hold in a geographically separate place, for example, in a separately rented conference room at a distance from the company's office. 


The order of its implementation in the full version consists of the following steps.

  • Introduction of the participants (if necessary). The presenter outlines the problem, purpose, objectives of the event. Sometimes one of the participants of the event speaks on the problem with a short report for better orientation of those present.
  • "Warming up" event that increases the psycho-emotional activity of participants (micro training, psychoneurosis stimulation technique). Performed by an engaged HR or specialized trainer.
  • Circular generation of ideas with brief logging on a board or flip chart.
  • When conducting a brainstorming session, several stages naturally change: "warming up", moments of exhaustion of creativity, bursts, extinction of creative potential, the final stage of generation. Brainstorming at this stage should necessarily be given a smooth ride, the "ragged mode" of the meeting should not be allowed. Many inexperienced presenters are in a hurry, artificially speeding up the pace of the event, this is a mistake. The best results are achieved with a measured course of events and a calm discussion of ideas.

The second stage of the event is carried out by another group of expert analysts and follows the task of analyzing the selection of valuable ideas from the list developed by the generation group. The main stages of this stage are presented in the diagram below.

  • Stages of the stage of examination of the developed ideas entering the brainstorming
  • Classification of types of brainstorming
  • The technique we are considering gradually develops and undergoes modifications over time, and at present the number of varieties of the method is quite large. This is due to attempts to level out the shortcomings present in it and strengthen the advantages. Its main advantage is accessibility and high involving power, which is manifested in most cases of a competent approach to technology. 


The main pros and cons of the method are made in a separate table, presented below.

What types of brainstorming can be distinguished? The most widespread is the traditional or classical method. Its distinctive features are rapid collection, short duration, combining into one session the stages of generating and selecting ideas. In recent years, the following types of brainstorming have also developed.

Reverse MSH.

It is most suitable for innovation in the field of product innovation and the development of new types of products. It uses the technique of defect analysis, which first reveals the most complete list of shortcomings of the products and the technical and marketing ideas embedded in it. It also identifies those potential problems with the product that are ideologically already embedded in it. All this serves as a serious basis for the creativity of generating breakthrough innovative solutions.

Shadow MOS.

Idea generators are divided into two subgroups instead of one. The first of them operates in conditions of direct (classical) brainstorming. The second subgroup explicitly or covertly observes the progress of the meeting of the active subgroup, and each "shadow" participant silently writes down his ideas that arise under the influence of the observed discussion.

Combined brains attack.

This method of brainstorming involves a combination or repetition of a classic brainstorming session or two previous methods. For example, an activity may be performed as a double direct brainstorming session or a back-direct brainstorming session. 

In the first case, the meeting is repeated after a significant break (2-3 days), which significantly activates the creativity of the participants-generators. In the second case, the reverse mechanism triggers the identification of all shortcomings and problems, in the direct MS it is much easier to solve them through the antipodes ideas found.

An individual MS, unlike a collective event, involves a self-assessment of the ideas put forward. However, evaluation activities are carried out after a while - in a week or more.

Other methods that complement the variety of brainstorming tools.

These include: shuttle MS, brain writing, a brainstorming method on the board, a "Solo" style brainstorming, a visual MS, and a Japanese-style brainstorming session. This list does not exhaust the complete list of modifications to the method.

In essence, the method discussed in this article is a universal means of finding critical places and finding solutions for management research in innovative projects, in predictive, in identification and factor analysis of risks. In addition, it is one of the most useful tools of project practice in general, when the PM needs to quickly and productively mobilize the team for an original exit in a situation. 


When mastering the method, I recommend starting its use with the classical (direct) form. As success in the basic modification is achieved, you can boldly resort to the use of developed methods, which will certainly bring new more significant effects.

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