Published on June 15, 2011

This post was previously on the Pathfinder Software site. Pathfinder Software changed its name to Orthogonal in 2016. Read more.

Brainstorming sessions are great for solving problems and generating ideas. You will enhance your results by remembering a few key guidelines for running your session.

1. Create Specific Questions in Advance

To engage a group, it pays to have a plan. For brainstorming, the plan can be quite simple. Start your session with a question. For example, “What words describe the personality our product might want to convey?” is a good question to see the flow of ideas. By asking for something specific (words in this case), you make it easy for people to immediately offer ideas. Have about five to seven questions ready for a one-hour session. They can even be fun or silly if that helps bring out good ideas.

2. Set the Ground Rules

Brainstorming sessions should be abo0ut creating a quantity of ideas. Make it clear up front that judging or analyzing ideas, straying onto tangents or giving long drawn out descriptions are not allowed.

3. Get everyone involved

Some people are more aggressive at offering ideas than others, but as moderator make sure you get everyone engaged. An easy way to do this is to repeat the “seed” question to a particular individual who isn’t talking much. Encourage everyone to participate.

4. Have someone writing stuff down

Sounds obvious but it’s easy to miss writing down a lot of ideas. Sometimes, it’s best to assign a person to be a scribe for a time, and then switch another person into that role after ten or fifteen minutes.