Process Guide #1: Brainstorming

Most problems are not solved automatically by the first idea that comes to mind. To get to the best solution it is important to consider many possible solutions. One of the best ways to do this is called brainstorming. Brainstorming is the act of defining a problem or idea and coming up anything related to the topic - no matter how remote a suggestion may sound. All of these ideas are recorded and evaluated only after the brainstorming is completed.


  1. In a small or large group select a leader and a recorder (they may be the same person).

  2. Define the problem or idea to be brainstormed. Make sure everyone is clear on the topic being explored.

  3. Set up the rules for the session. They should include
    • letting the leader have control.
    • allowing everyone to contribute.
    • ensuring that no one will insult, demean, or evaluate another participant or his/her response.
    • stating that no answer is wrong.
    • recording each answer unless it is a repeat.
    • setting a time limit and stopping when that time is up.

  4. Start the brainstorming. Have the leader select members of the group to share their answers. The recorder should write down all responses, if possible so everyone can see them. Make sure not to evaluate or criticize any answers until done brainstorming.

  5. Once you have finished brainstorming, go through the results and begin evaluating the responses. Some initial qualities to look for when examining the responses include
    • looking for any answers that are repeated or similar.
    • grouping like concepts together.
    • eliminating responses that definitely do not fit.
    • Now that you have narrowed your list down some, discuss the remaining responses as a group.

This page was designed by Dan McDowell for the Triton and Patterns Projects of San Diego Unified School District. Last updated July 5, 1999.

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