Brainstorming for solutions in Operations

Brainstorming is a useful and popular tool that can be used to develop highly creative solutions to a problem. It is particularly helpful when it is needed to break out of stale, established patterns of thinking, so that new ways of looking at things can be developed.

Normally brainstorming sessions are conducted in an organization when needed and the initiative for the same is taken by a managerial level person. The CEO may be invited at times and there is no restriction on the level or cadres of personnel participating. Even a semi-skilled worker may come out with a brilliant idea when he understands the problem clearly.

Brainstorming is a lateral thinking process. It asks people to come up with ideas and thoughts that seem at first to be a bit shocking or crazy. You can then change and improve them into ideas that are useful, and often stunningly original.

During brainstorming sessions there should be no criticism of ideas: you are trying to open up possibilities and break down wrong assumptions about the limits of the problem. Judgments and analysis at this stage will stunt idea generation.

Ideas should only be evaluated at the end of the brainstorming session — you can then explore solutions further using conventional approaches.

When you brainstorm on your own you will tend to produce a wider range of ideas than with group brainstorming. You may not, however, develop ideas as effectively as you do not have the experience of a group to help you.

When brainstorming in a group, define the problem you want to solve clearly, and lay out any criteria to be met. Keep the session focused on the problem.’

Ensure that no one criticizes or evaluates ideas during the session. Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among members of the group. Try to get everyone to contribute and develop ideas.

Let people have fun brainstorming. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as possible, from solid practical ones to wildly impractical ones.

Welcome creativity. Ensure that no train of thought is followed for too long. Encourage people to develop other people’s ideas, or to use other ideas to create new ones.

Appoint one person to note down ideas that come out of the session. A good way of doing this is to use a flip chart. This should be studied and evaluated after the session.

Where possible, participants in the brainstorming process should come from as wide a range of disciplines as possible. This brings a broad range of experience to the table and helps in making the session more productive and creative.

At the end of the session ideas are short listed and evaluated based on the practicability of application to the organization taking into consideration budgetary constraints. Finally the most suitable and profitable or cost saving one is adopted.