The term “brainstorming” is technically a gerund, a verb that wants to be a noun. A gerund implies more than one step or activity. Brainstorming has three activities.

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Facilitate Brainstorming By Stressing Analysis

To facilitate brainstorming properly can be highly effective. When done poorly, it leaves a bad taste in peoples’ mouths. Optimally, brainstorming includes three discrete activities:

  1. List (also known as diverge or ideate)
  2. Analyze (the hardest of the three activities and the analysis is frequently omitted)
  3. Decide (also known as converge or document)

A facilitator or session leader must be conscious where the group is and upon which activity the group should focus.  Many people are confident in their facilitation skills because they can stand at an easel and capture ideas (or provide instructions and gather Post-it Notes®). Those same leaders then turn to their participants. They ask them to create categories, or worse, ask what they would like to do with the list. This type of leadership is NOT facilitation and does NOT make it easier for the group to make an informed decision.

Analysis Drives Convergence

The difficult part of brainstorming, and frequently facilitating, is knowing what to do with the list—how to lead the group through analysis that is insightful. There is no “silver bullet” for the ill-prepared. Determine appropriate analysis methods before the meeting, with an alternative method in mind as a contingency or backup plan. Many of our other articles on Best Practices are about HOW TO analyze input.

For example, there are numerous ways to help groups prioritize, from the simple through the complicated to the complex. Purchasing stationary may be simple. Yet designing machinery (eg, jet airplane) is complicated and creating artificial intelligence (think IBM’s Watson playing Jeopardy) is truly complex. Each has a different and appropriate method for analysis and prioritization.

For example one might use PowerBalls for a simple decision. To drive consensus around a complicated decision, something more robust is required such as a quantitative Scorecard approach that separates criteria into different types such as binary (ie, Yes/ No), scalable (more is better), and fuzzy (subjective). Alternatively, qualitative Perceptual Maps may suit some groups better.  MG Rush’s proprietary quantitative SWOT analysis provides a hardy and robust tool.

We post responses based on our body of knowledge (BoK) supported by decades of experience leading groups to make higher quality decisions.

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Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practicing methodology. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools before class concludes. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Therefore Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

MG RUSH Professional Facilitation curriculum provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation, our training fully aligns with IAF Certification and International Institute for Facilitation (INIFAC) principles. Consequently, our professional curriculum fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, all of our classes immerse students in the responsibilities and dynamics of effective facilitation and methodology. Nobody is smarter than everybody so attend an MG RUSH  Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world. For additional details, see MG RUSH  for a current schedule.

Go to the Facilitation Training Store to access proven in-house resources. Because there you will discover fully annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE with others.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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