Monday, May 14, 2007

Improving on Brainstorming

Brainstorming technique can further be improved upon by utilizing it with other creative tools. Brainstorming is best when it is used to generate ideas, but the process can be improved upon when brain storming is combined with other creative tools such as:

  • Multi-voting

  • Lotus Blossom

  • Six Thinking Hats®

  • Lateral Thinking ®

I will write more about Six thinking Hats & Lateral Thinking tools later in this blog. These tools are used to refine the ideas generated during the brainstorming session and it helps to select the ones for implementation.


Multi-Voting is best done during the end of the brainstorming session. Inevitably people will run out of ideas in a session or when people feel that they have captured sufficient number of ideas, then at that moment it is useful to use multi-Voting. Multi-Voting is a process of ranking all the ideas that was generated during the session - based on a simple democratic vote. (each person has one vote) The objective is to rank the ideas according to its popularity. The steps for brainstorming are as folllows:

  1. Write down all the ideas generated during the session

  2. If there are similar ideas, merge them into a single idea

  3. Ask the audience to vote on those ideas

  4. Rearrange the ideas according to their popularity

The top (the most popular) 5-10 ideas are the ones that are worthy of pursuing further.
Multi-Voting is an effective way to select and decide on ideas generated during brainstorming. It also helps to gauge the popularity of an idea. It has been observed in the past that the ideas which are widely endorsed by the group also happens to be an excellent idea. The logic or rational here is that the collective intelligence of the group is always better than the individual intelligence. Thus multi-voting is a superior way to filter ideas in a democratic way.

Lotus Blossom

Lotus Blossom is another tool that can be used as an extension to brainstorming. Lotus blossom is a graphical tool to elicit ideas and capture it.

One needs to start with a clearly defined problem statement or with a clear cut objective/goal. Having a clearly definedd problem statement or an objective is essential for better results.

Start with writing the problem statement or the goal at the center of the diagram.

Next step is to ask the participants to brainstorm ideas to meet the objectives or solve the problem. Among the ideas generated, vote for the top 8 popular ideas and wirite them in the blocks A through F.

Next step is to write down the same ideas at the center of the other boxes as shown in the diagram above, and ask the participants to brainstorm for more ideas pertaining to the idea written in the center of each block and select the top 8 ideas and fill up the squares in all the boxes. This will result in 64 ideas.

Lotus Blossom technique thus captures lot more ideas than a typical brainstorming session. The main advantages of lotus blossom are:

  • Focused Brainstorming

  • Ideas are explored in two levels - thus a deeper analysis can be done quickly

  • More ideas are generated & captured

  • Builds on eachother’s ideas

  • Only the popular ideas are captured and these are further explored

  • Inherently democratic process

Multi-Voting and Lotus Blossom are two techniques that are built on brainstorming techniques. These techniques assume that the participants are creative and can generate lots of ideas. Inevitably in most organizations, employees perceive themselves as non-creative and have mindblocks towards creativity. In such cases it will be beneficial for the participants to attend training/workshops which will overcome their mindblocks. There are several tools and methods to help make participants become more creative. Among them the best tools are: Lateral Thinking and Six Thinking Hats.

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