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A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving (contents)

Brainstorming: Examples

The Quality Toolbook > Brainstorming > Examples

When to use it | How to understand it | Example | How to use it | Practical variations


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The picnic committee surveyed a sample of the workforce about what they wanted in it. The most popular request was for a themed event (not just the same old sitting around eating sandwiches). The committee knew the constraints: limited cost and distance. The chairman asked the works manager to facilitate a Brainstorming session so he could join the group.

The meeting started with the facilitator introducing himself and the recorder (his secretary) and laying down the ground rules. The problem, 'Theme for a company picnic' was pinned to a wall and two flipcharts were set up to record ideas where everyone could see them. The meeting started:

Facilitator: Mike, you start.

Mike: How about Country and Western?

Facilitator: Fine. Jane, you're next in line ...

Jane: Cowboys and Indians

John: No, we did that a couple of years ago ...

Facilitator: Sorry, John, can we stick to the rules? No criticism of any kind, no matter what.

John: Sorry, Jane. Ok ... horse racing.

Celia: Dog racing!



Jane: Green.

Sandra: (laughing) Sky-blue pink with purple dots!

John: Yes! Airplanes! We could hold it at the local airfield, and have plane rides ...

Facilitator: Sounds good, John, but let's discuss details later. Ken, you look like you're thinking about something.



Facilitator: Ok, we seem to have a good set of ideas. Now it's time to find the best ones. Can you all come up and put three crosses against your favorite idea, two against the next one, and then one each against three 'runners up'.

<a little later>

Facilitator: Right. The top three, airplanes, clowns and hats are clearly more popular than any of the others. Let's take a little time to discuss them. Jane, could you tell us why airplanes would be a good theme? [Jane did not vote for airplanes].


Celia: We could have a funny planes theme, or an airplane hat competition.

Mike: Mmm. Fun in the air could include things like kite flying.


Facilitator: The suggested theme is 'Clowning about in the air'. Are we all agreed, then, that this is the joint recommendation of this group?

The result of the meeting was the whole group enthusing about a theme that was a synthesis of a straight suggestion with an idea which was sparked off by a ridiculous bit of fun. The picnic was a great success.

Other examples

  • A management team uses a Brainstorming format to collect opinions on the validity of a draft training strategy.
  • A workgroup of people who use compressed air tools Brainstorm for ideas to reduce the noise made by their tools.
  • A group of accountants use a Brainstorming session to find ways of reducing tax payments without transgressing the law.

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