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Tool 1: Brainstorming Techniques

Brainstorming is a tried-and-true way to come up with ideas in a group. The method is simple. The problem is stated, and the recorder stands in front of a room with some newsprint or a blackboard. People in the group say whatever ideas pop into their minds. The recorder writes down all of the comments made.

Helpful hints to keep in mind when brainstorming:

  • Watch out for assumptions; every unnecessary assumption reduces the number of potential solutions. If your group is looking for entertainment for an upcoming celebration, for example, don't assume that there isn't talent within the group. You might have an outstanding singer who is just too shy to bring his talents up unasked.
  • Simply giving instructions that people can or should be creative in the brainstorming session may help raise the number and quality of solutions created.
  • No idea is too outlandish. The meeting recorder writes all the ideas down. Why? An idea that seems ridiculous on first hearing it might turn out to be possible, even desirable. Or it might be modified by other members of the group, and end up being the perfect solution to the problem.
  • Nobody should comment on how good or bad the ideas are; there should be no discussion about them at this time. People keep producing all kinds of ideas until everyone runs out of steam.
  • Ideas can be "piggybacked" or combined as people see connections during the process.
  • The facilitator should keep the energy high, and constantly ask for more and different ideas. This might even be done in the manner of an auctioneer, with constant chatter and a fast-paced discussion.
  • If the group gets off the subject, the facilitator or recorder can gently remind them of why they are there.
  • Discussion, analysis, and idea selection come later.

Variations on brainstorming:

  • A period of individual brainstorming can precede the group activity. Each person generates his/her own ideas privately and later shares them with the group.
  • If idea generating is done on a day after you defined and analyzed the problem, group members can be asked to generate solutions as "homework" between the two sessions.

Tool 2: Worksheet: Evaluating the Possibilities

You can use the following worksheet to try and decide which possibilities make most sense for your organization at this time. If you are deciding in a group, there are different ways you can use this sheet.

  • Everyone can fill out the sheet individually and discuss the answers as a group.
  • Questions can be written on poster paper before the meeting begins (one question per page), and the facilitator or recorder can list people's responses on the page as they are brought up.
Evaluating the Possibilities
How much time and effort will each of these take?


What can we afford to do, financially?


What can we afford to do, politically?


What options do we absolutely NOT want to pursue?


What information are we still missing the could change our decision?


What are the likely reactions of other members of our group?


What are the likely reactions of people outside our group?


What looks like the best option for our group at this time?