Exercise 77 Learning To Brainstorm Problems

The brainstorming method of problem solving is a technique given its name by Alex Osborn, the founder of the advertising firm of Batten, Barten, Durstine and Osborn. Brainstorming groups usually consist of from 5 to 12 people who bombard a specific problem with diverse ideas. Four basic rules govern a brainstorming session:

1) Judgments of suggested ideas are suspended until later so that the group can proceed more with generating ideas than defending them. Negative looks, expressions and mannerism should be avoided by members. Avoid even "That's a good idea" type remarks, because they are still judgments.

2) Participants are encouraged to think of the wildest most spontaneous ideas possible and attack the problem with no holds barred.

3) An enthusiastic quantity of ideas is encouraged, because quantity increases the likelihood of obtaining some good solutions.

4) Participants are encouraged to build upon the ideas of the others to turn them into better ideas or modify two or more ideas in combination to produce a better idea. Brainstorming's growth came from a 12-man brainstorm panel which is still the size frequently used, although 7-member teams have become quite popular as well. To create a brainstorm panel, select people with a diversity of specialties, attitudes and backgrounds and perhaps only one member being very familiar with the material being brainstormed. Define the problem specifically and simply, avoiding vagueness and generality.

As a brainstorm leader, diplomatically guide the group without creating a forbidding atmosphere. Like a good team captain, stay in the background yourself and do not to take credit for the group's progress and accomplishments. Create an atmosphere of encouragement and select a location conducive to good results. For instance, holding a brainstorming session in an uncomfortable or noisy office could prove inhibiting. On the other hand, yellow walls, modern art and a bit of music in the background all seem to contribute to creativity in brainstorming rooms.

A written record of the session's ideas should be kept. When later these ideas are evaluated for their usefulness, the entire list will serve as a basis for possible solutions. The principal value of group brainstorming is the fact that it can produce far more good ideas than a conventional conference, and in far less time.

In actual practice, a brainstorming session can even be used by yourself, if you adhere to the same four basic rules. As an exercise, apply these same rules to a prob lem of your own without any group assistance. Secure a comfortable and quiet surrounding. With pencil and paper, write a sentence specifically outlining your problem. Surprisingly, simply defining the situation begins to produce a flurry of possible solutions. When the flurry starts, write down key words without elaboration to allow the flow to rapidly proceed along.

To facilitate the definition process, write at least 3 additional ways of outlining the problem. What is it you really want or find dissatisfactory in your present situation? Realize that all problems appear simple after the solution is found. See in your mind's eye the pleasant outcome to finding the solution. Separate the problem into segments to make the steps in solving it more manageable. And finally, once the pondering has been completed, initiate some kind of action toward achieving results. You'll find that getting started on it carries a momentum that creates a vibration to figuring the rest out along the way. Be courageous and trust in yourself. Everything is far simpler if you look at it that way. Practice internal brainstorming on different problems and soon a free flow of thoughts will become a natural process.

Brainstorming Problem: Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and the U.S. has one of the highest crime rates. What procedure can be used to sharply reduce the crime rate in America quickly?

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