Brainstorming is a good technique for generating and critically analyzing action steps. The exercise should not last too long, as brainstorming is intended to be a liberating moment in an important planning process. Ensure participants understand any idea can be expressed, and there should be no critique or arguing over ideas until the discussion stage.
Before starting, set the ground rules for brainstorming
- All ideas are valuable ideas
- One idea at a time
- Be brief and clear
- No criticism, no praise (but you can ask for clarification)
- No interruptions when someone is talking
- Do not be afraid to be wild and original
- If you cannot think of anything to say, just pass
Then establish the real subject of the brainstorming: get started by asking each participant to suggest an idea for next steps. Write the ideas as they are generated on a large flip chart paper or on cards. After ideas have stopped flowing from the participants, duplicate ideas are eliminated, and similar suggestions clustered evaluated for utility or feasibility. This can be done through voting (see 'Dotocracy'). Ideas which receive the largest number of votes are retained for further investigation or discussion, and the rest are discarded.
It is important that the facilitator differentiates between the wild and the analytical aspects of this exercise - perhaps with a break - otherwise participants may not get down to talking about the most useful ideas.