|Designing Human Settlements Training in African Countries - Volume 2: Trainer's Tool Kit (HABITAT, 1994, 182 p.)|
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To get the warmth of the fire, one must stir the embers.
- Kikuyu Proverb
Popularized by Alex Osborn in the early 1950s, brainstorming is a group activity that focuses on channeling collective energy towards the generation of a wide range of ideas. As a learning experience, brainstorming uses a few simple, practical rules to cultivate creative thinking.
Brainstorming is a leader-directed, participant-centred activity. It is ideal for groups of less than 10 participants. It is carried out in a small room with open wall space for taping up large sheets of paper containing ideas. Participants supply ideas and the trainer, who is equipped with a flip chart, records them.
The typical brainstorming session is carried out in six steps as follows:
The group leader writes a problem for which solutions are sought on the flip chart. The question should be brief, specific and stimulating.
How can we obtain a project grant from UNCHS (Habitat)?
The leader explains why the problem is of concern to the group.
The leader explains the ground rules for brainstorming as shown in the box below.
Rules for Brainstorming
· Every idea is accepted - no discussion or evaluation is permitted. This includes both verbal and non-verbal expressions of approval or disapproval. As one leader once put it, everybody think up or shut up!
· Every idea is written down exactly as stated. No restating, summarizing or interpreting.
· The objective is quantity of ideas. Quality ideas will come later. This is known as free-wheeling.
· Building on the ideas already suggested is acceptable and encouraged.
· Opposites or the reverse of ideas already suggested are okay and encouraged.
· A time limit is set and is observed without fail. When time is up, STOP!
The leader lists each idea on the flip chart as quickly as possible. Ideas are recorded exactly as stated. This is important. Hesitation sometimes gives the impression of disapproval. Two recorders may be used to speed up the flow of ideas, if the participant group is large.
When time is up, participants are allowed to ask questions for clarification only. Only the individual who provided an idea is allowed to clarify it.
Participants are invited to evaluate the ideas. This can be done in the group as a whole or by assigning ideas to sub-groups. The most promising ideas are identified, and an effort is made to arrive at a consensus.
Brainstorming can be a highly productive method for generating ideas from members of a group in relation to a problem under study. The power of association can be like a two-way current. When one member expresses an idea, she tends to stir her own imagination to think of another one. At the same time, her ideas stimulate the associative power of other members of the group. Brainstorming will succeed, however, only when everyone participates actively and takes care to suspend judgement until a final list of ideas is recorded for group consideration.