Group Brainstorming

July 25, 2022 by Eileen Wirth

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two blogs about brainstorming. This one focuses on how to conduct a group brainstorming session and what to do with the results. To read Dr. Wirth’s article on individual brainstorming, click HERE!

Our executive director had just resigned and we were at a crossroads. The pandemic had created major changes in how we operate. Where should our board and the organization go from here?

To sort things out, our president ran a group brainstorming session on how to address our major concerns. The session lasted about an hour. Ideas flowed. Suddenly, on a scale of one to ten, we were no longer at sixes and sevens. The future looked less murky and a good strategic plan was emerging. 

If you ever lead such a session, here’s a process that nearly always works. Start by announcing several topics to be covered to focus the brainstorming then proceed as follows:

Phase One: Generating Ideas

Ask someone to record all ideas on a white board or sheets posted on a wall.

  • Ask someone to record all ideas on a white board or sheets posted on a wall.
  • Allow only one person to speak at a time and give everyone a chance to speak. Don’t let anyone dominate the discussion. 
  • Record each suggestion and move on to the next without any critique or debate.  Keep the ideas coming.
  • When the group has exhausted ideas for the first question, move through the remaining questions in this fashion until you have covered all of them.

Take a 15 -minute break to allow participants to begin evaluating the ideas. Some groups give participants sticky notes to post on the ideas they like most. What solutions are starting to emerge?

Phase Two: Voting for Ideas 

Ask the group to react to the ideas. What do participants like most and least and why? Are the most popular ideas doable and affordable? Should some good ideas be deferred until another time? Eliminate duplicates and combine ideas that fit together. Are you hearing a developing consensus around ideas you could implement? 

Then vote on the ideas. 

  • Number surviving ideas under each question and hand out paper ballots.
  • Ask everyone to choose their top three ideas under each question.  
  • Count the votes to select the circle the top three for each question.
  • Assign two people per question to report back at the next meeting. They will likely need to do further research before proposing next steps towards implementation. The board can discuss their recommendations. 

Congratulations! You have completed a successful brainstorming process. 

Got a question or topic on creativity you would like Dr. Wirth to address for The Greenhouse Journal? Shoot her an email at EILEENWIRTH@creighton.edu.

Eileen Wirth

Dr. Eileen Wirth is a professor emeritus of journalism at Creighton University and is an author specializing in Omaha history. She was a reporter at the World-Herald and a PR Writer for Union Pacific before joining Creighton in 1991. Eileen’s books include The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Historic Omaha Houses of Worship and From Society Page to Front Page. She is on the board of History Nebraska and a member of the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Women’s Journalism Hall of Fame, and the Omaha Press Club Hall of Fame. She also has been active in numerous groups particularly the Omaha Public Library.

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