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Time management - Brain storm

Brain storm

Generation of ideas

This technique is one of the major ways of generating ideas which can then be reviewed.
To do it properly requires keeping to a set of rules and following a few simple steps.


Make sure that all ideas are written down in such a way that all involved can see the list grow. Even record different viewpoints of what appears to be a similar idea.

Do not criticise

The aim of the exercise is to encourage the free expression of ideas no matter how they might appear to any individuals involved.
To create an atmosphere where this is possible no one should criticise any of the ideas put forward or discuss them in any way.


Initially go for a lot of ideas. Some ideas will trigger others, but still do not discuss them.
If the environment is good a lot of creative ideas will be produced. All ideas, at this stage should be encouraged no matter how impractical they seem.
A relaxed group is more likely to come up with creative ideas.


Some time should be taken to consider the ideas, taking a break if necessary or even getting outside comment on the ideas to date. This may produce additional ideas.

Stepwise procedure

Step 1

Make sure everyone is aware of the rules. You may wish to write these out and display them where all can see. In particular ‘no discussion’ of the ideas generated.

Step 2

Write down what issue or problem the group is trying to solve. Again display visibly.

Step 3

Everyone begins to contribute ideas at a speed that the scribe can write down. The scribe should not try to interpret the idea but write them down as given by the speaker.
The scribe should also contribute. Methods for producing ideas could be:

  • One can either have a free for all in proposing ideas
  • Each member of the group could provide an idea in rotation, saying pass if none presents itself. The exercise could stop when everyone passes in a round.
  • A predetermined number of ideas could be generated e.g. 20 or 100.
Step 4

Make sure that all of the ideas are recorded accurately and they are all visible. If using a flip chart then full sheets can be posted up on walls using Bluetack.

Step 5

The group (or third parties) should then give some time to think about the ideas so far. This could be a short time or over a week for example.
If the latter, there may be an opportunity to display the ideas to a wider audience.

Step 6

The ideas are then evaluated in a structured manner using some or all of these techniques.

  • Group the ideas under headings or themes.
  • Then begin to examine each idea in turn.
  • Constructively criticise the idea but not the person who proposed it.
  • Highlight the best ideas in some fashion e.g. circle, use of highlighter, underline etc.
  • Try to rank the ideas by some arbitrary measure e.g. a mark out of ten. Clearly, this is not an absolute science at this stage but it does show up those largely preferred over others. For example, 2 may have a lot more merit than 9. When this is done, review the prioritised list and eliminate any considered of equal ranking at the first assessment. At this stage one may wish to identify the major solutions using a Pareto technique i.e. a few of the options will solve most of the problem e.g. 3 out of the 10 may be expected to solve a large part of the problem.
Step 7

Having identified the ‘best’ solutions consider:

  • Were there any weaknesses in the methods employed to reach these solutions?
  • Are there any faults with the proposed solutions?
  • Could the solution itself go wrong or add to generate problems in an other area?

Additional consideration of ideas:

Simple voting procedure

This is just what it sounds like. Having grouped and reduced the ideas in brainstorming the group then vote for the ones they prefer.
This can take the form of each person voting as many times as they wish or one vote.
After the first round the ideas are reviewed and a further round of voting is used if necessary.

Ranking technique

Each person ranks each idea on the basis of 1 to 5. When each person has finished ranking the ideas the scores for each idea are totalled.
The ideas can then be given a priority according to their scores.

What next?

You have a lot of ideas that have been condensed to 2 or 3 options to solve your problem or reach your objective, how do you proceed?
You need to convert the good intentions into a plan of action.
Planning is covered in much more detail elsewhere [see ‘The Complete Project Management package’] and [see 'The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2'].

Non - PRINCE2 information