How to do Brainstorming? – 5 tools for brainstorming

Brainstorming is a powerfull method to generate ideas, and solutions. Learn 5 different tools, its pros and cons, and choose one, that will fit for you.

this article covers:

  • What is Brainstorming?
  • Brainstorming – history
  • Key principles of Brainstorming
  • Brainstorming tools countdown
    • Random Brainstorming
    • Using process map
    • Visit process
    • Own criteria
    • Fishbone diagram
    • Additional tip
  • Steps after brainstorming
  • Download brainstorming guideline
How to do successful brainstorming session?

Hot news, folks. In order to help you as much as I can in your improvement efforts, I have launched non-binding consultation program. I would like to help you with:

  • Lean culture implementation in your organization
  • Six Sigma projects consultations
  • Lean Six Sigma trainings and certifications support
  • Project management theory turn into practical usage
  • Your career planning

First 30 minutes of consultation for free, every additional 1 hour 10 USD.

What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a technique, by which group of people try to find a cause, or solution for a specific problem. It is done by spontaneous ideas generation. This method is also used for individual brainstorming.

Brainstorming guidance is available by the end of this article
– for free, of course 🙂

There are many ways how to perform brainstorming. Let me share with you brief history, and key principles when conducting brainstorming, prior sharing countdown of my top 5 tools supporting generating maximum of quality ideas.

22 green belt certification companies review – read here

Download green belt prices – 22 certification companies review

Second 11 companies review

You can download above introduced table for free, on the link below:

Brainstorming – history

Method was developed by Alex Osborn. There was frustration of this American advertising executive, by employees inability to individually develop creative ideas, that would be on high quality, and quantity level. He has realized, that this was significantly improved after hosting group thinking sessions. He realized, that quality and quantity of ideas have dramatically improved. Osborn outlined his method in 1948 in his book, Unlocking Your Creative Power.

A little bit of history
Unlcoking Your Creative Power – book cover

If you would like to buy “Unlocking Your Creative Power” book by Alex Osborn click on this affiliate marketing link:

I may receive a commission if you sign up through this link. This is not affecting final product prices.

Key principles of Brainstorming

  • What team must have prior starting, is a clear problem, or clear difficulty statement. It must be specific question, that can be addressed. Example: high, 21 occurrences of injuries at warehouse in last 3 months.
  • Build positive environment, where deferring judgment is key for reducing fear, that any idea has lower weight. All group members are equal, all ideas counts.
  • Generate as much as ideas as you can. Quantity is important, because it can start chain reaction on developing other ideas. It encourages members to dream about future ideal solution. Team can also combine different ideas, and build brand new one out of them. Accept all ideas, all ideas counts.
  • Let people work individually. Give team 5-10 minutes to write their ideas alone, After explaining problem and brainstorming method. Use stickers. Let team write 1 idea per sticker.
  • I try to motivate team with some reward. Like, who will generate the most ideas, will win something sweet. It can support positive team members competition.
  • Collect ideas. Start by one team member. Let him read his ideas loud, one by one. Collect similar ideas from other team members, and put them together.
  • Go around the room, and collect all ideas.

How to identify non-value added activities in the office?

Brainstorming principles

Download DMAIC tools list, I suggest allways to follow.

Download working DMAIC tool list for your usage

I strongly recommend to have Learning to See book and Mixed model Valuestream for all managers, for all supervisors, engineers and leaders. You will be able to understand how valuestream should work, how to make value flow, and implement lean in any business, any process. It is really worth it.

Learning to See – Creating Mixed Model – Guru Books

If you would like to buy “Learning to see” book by Mike Rother click on this affiliate marketing link:

f you would like to buy “Creating Mixed Model VS” book by Kevin J Duggan click on this affiliate marketing link:

I may receive a commission if you sign up through this link. This is not affecting final product pric

I do videos, blog posts, and all templates for free, in my free time. I will appreciate if you can donate me a cup of cofee, for more energy in my creation. (1 dollar counts, too 😉 Click on this link: I would like to support Erik in his effort

Brainstorming tools countdown:

Now back to top 5 tools I use for empowering brainstorming. Quality ideas and quantity are key for successful sessions. Tools I will share with you are supporting both criteria. I will try to explain how strongly in pros and cons for each method, with brief example.

Kaizen meeting – how to do it?

Random Brainstorming

Number 5: Free writing, or random brainstorming about topic. This is the most often used method, but not preferred by me. Problem statement is showed on the screen, or wall in front of the team. Team members are trying to write anything that comes to their mind.

It is easy usable method. No deep explanation is required. Cons is, that for some people can be very difficult to overcome some point where they have generated small amount of ideas. It happens, that team does not go straight to the point.

Tools to brainstorm

Using process map

Tool Number 4: brainstorming using process map. This is used to brainstorm difficulties in the process, that are not so obvious on the first sight. It is great way to brainstorm office processes wastes. Team have to develop process map first. Team brainstorm problems each process steps is causing. Challenge team to have open discussion about each idea brought up. It is great to hear questions about problems from the rest of the team.

Pros: great method for revealing challenges in the process. Great tool for addressing office processes challenges. Cons.: at least meeting leader has to have deeper knowledge of process mapping. It can take also longer time, or require several sessions to go through the process, and brainstorm process steps challenges.

8 wastes of lean – how to identify them? – read here

Download 8 wastes of lean

It is great to have waste types on paper with you during Gemba. Download it, use it, and share it.

8 deadly wastes of lean

And here is promised link:

Visit process

Tool number 3: Visit process and brainstorm there. I do often visit problematic process, and brainstorm with the team ideas or solutions. It is great visual method, that triggers concrete problem solving ideas. Team can observe people operating in the process.

It can be more obvious to see problem and generate improving ideas.

Team can use 8 wastes method in combination with brainstorming. I suggest to inform process owner or process supervisor about upcoming process visit. Inform also people working in the process about the intent.

Pros is, that team is very close to the process and its problems. Cons is, that team have to be trained for the safety requirements of particular process. It can be sometimes difficult to find the way to write down ideas on stickers. It can be difficult to see higher level perspective, that process challenges can bring.

5 easy ideas for green belt project – read here

Tools to brainstorm

Gemba walk guideline download:

Visit any process and identify all types of wastes by following this proven guideline. There are 3 lists you will get: 1) Prework; 2) Gemba walk itself; 3) Steps after Gemba walk

Check list after Gemba. Free for download in the link below

And here is promised link:

Own criteria

Tool number 2: own criteria identification

Identify teams own criteria, that are influencing problem. List 4 to 8 important criteria, that will help team with brainstorming. Identified criteria will help team to generate more specific ideas. Like on this example of injuries at warehouse (see picture below). Criteria influencing this problem can be: pallet jack velocity, operators attention, people experiences, and process difficulty. Identified criteria will help team to concentrate on specific solution. Challenge each team member to write at least 3 ideas per each criteria.

How to be a great project manager? – read here

Pros is, that by criteria triggers more specific ideas, as already mentioned. Team understands, what is really important for the process. Cons is, that you must spent time with criteria identification. Broader team must be involved in criteria identification. Process owner, stakeholders, project sponsor, customers and so on. So it can take some time to get to the point, when brainstorming can be done.

I would like to ask you one think, Prior we jump into my number one method. Share with me, and audience your favorite brainstorming method, in the comments below. Thank you.

Tools to brainstorm

Download DMAIC tools list, I suggest allways to follow.

Download working DMAIC tool list for your usage

Fishbone diagram

And here is My Number 1 brainstorming tool. It is Fishbone diagram. It is similar to previous method, but criteria are already identified. Man, machine, environment, measurement, material, method are those criteria. Challenge every team member to write at least 3 ideas per each criteria.

Pros is, that you do not need to involve larger group of people in criteria identification. Those six criteria are wide enough to let people thinking and generating ideas. Criteria are helping team to generate more specific and quality ideas or solutions. I have used this method tons of times with always successful results.

Cons can be, that at least session leader must have deeper knowledge about fishbone diagram. There is fishbone training video available on my YouTube channel. Find fishbone template on my blog, or in the comments below.

Download fishbone template

Here is how fishbone template for download looks like:

Fishbone template

There is task list template I use in my projects all the time included. It looks like this:

Addressing cause template is included

There is 5 whys analysis template included, On top of that:

5 whys template is included

You can download fishbone analysis, Task list and 5 whys template on the link below:

DMAIC example – fast food restaurant improvement

Tools to brainstorm

Additional tip

Another tip is combination of number 2 and 1. Exclude fishbone criteria, will not be useful for your ideas generation. And add new criteria, that might suit better for your case.

After brainstorming

Next step after brainstorming, is sorting ideas. Identify relevance for each idea. Set up relevance scale. From 1 to 5 for example. Where number 5 is most relevant. Ask team embers to say how relevant they think idea is. Review ideas relevance after discussing all ideas. Choose top 3 ideas and address them. You can use “why because” method as a next step, to solve problem.

And that´s it. Wish you good luck with using this tool.

How to use Pareto rule? (+template) – read here

Download brainstorming guideline

There are 2 pdf. pages of the Brainstorming meeting guidance. This is preview, of what you get:

Brainstorming prework
During and after brainstorming

And here is promised link:

I do videos, blog posts, and all templates for free, in my free time. I will appreciate if you can donate me a cup of cofee, for more energy in my creation. (1 dollar counts, too 😉 Click on this link: I would like to support Erik in his effort

Six sigma is easy

Do not be scared of using these tools wrong way. It can be part of your learning curve, which is ok. Improve your skills by repeating, and using each tool over and over again.

Remember, if you improve process during your first projects by 60%, 40%, or even by 20% it is worth it. You can repeat improving initiative, and improve process next time a litter better. Just keep to have a fun.

Do not forget to visit and subscribe my YouTube channel. I am uploading Six Sigma, Lean and Project oriented videos regurarly. So, stay tuned.

Yours sincerely Erik.

Brainstorming training video

Related Post