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How To Use Brainstorm Ideas

Oct 12, 2007
At last the deadline is met. The brainstorm session is over. Its members pile out of the room; the secretaries stretch their fingers before picking up the long list of ideas. But the brainstorm process is far from finished. Ideas, even the best ideas in the world, are useless unless they are put to work.

To make sure they have collected every possible idea, some companies have a panel member call the others twenty-four hours after a meeting, to ask for all ideas they have had on the way home, while sleeping or shaving. Rarely has their subconscious stopped working.

After all the ideas have been collected, a secretary types a triple-spaced list exactly as the ideas came in the session. Then the chairman reads that list, expanding the ideas which need it, and adding other ideas which occur to him. He then organizes the list into categories. For example, he might organize a list putting together all the ideas about retail sales, wholesale promotion, advertising, etc. The categories should correspond to the logical ones for your business and your problems.

That organized list is typed and duplicated. It is sent to every member of the brainstorm session. This list is important. It makes everyone aware of what has been done in what may seem to critics a rather ephemeral operation. It gets ideas down on paper. This makes them a positive force within the organization. They have to be acted upon, rejected perhaps, but only with a reason. And each member of the panel is likely to feel some proprietorship over their results.

This does not mean that any of the ideas have to be utilized. It does mean that there is a pressure to try new ideas, or at least consider them, which counterbalances the natural inertia in any organization which resists change.

Often the list will produce an idea or ideas that can be brainstormed profitably themselves. This is especially true when the question in the first session is a steam-shovel one. Then the group can reconvene after having fifty-eight vague ideas on how to increase sales of dog food, and attack specific proposals for contacting veterinarians, setting up supermarket displays, reaching children through TV shows. Then the sessions will not come up with fifty-eight ideas. The total is more likely to be 158.

Now that the ideas have been produced, judgment must be applied to the ideas in a vigorous, cold-water session. This may be done by the entire group in a technique worked out by Professor Paul Pigors at M.I.T.

He has found that a brainstorm panel can immediately sort their own ideas into three categories: (1) hot ideas that can be tried out almost immediately; (2) those which need long range or involved study, co-ordination, or vast appropriations; (3) those which are obviously unusable. General Electric's Royce plant in Toronto arranges their ideas into those which can be put to work: (1) in one week; (2) one month; (3) six months, and so on.

To have the whole group do the judging, of course, takes a great deal more time than the session itself, and it completely wastes the time of those nonexperts who just don't know enough about the subject to say if an idea is practical or not.

It is best to have a committee of about three panel members, usually the ones most concerned with the problem, meet and apply judgment. They should be the folks who know what has been tried, what is too expensive, what's against policy. To save time in this session each committee member should read over the list beforehand and come in with the top ten ideas. Usually the committee will find it quickly agrees on a majority.

If the above methods are put into practice, none of the valuable ideas of a brainstorm will go to waste. They will be gathered and utilized, making the brainstorm a valuable source of ideas.
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