Brainstorming is a team-centered process used to generate new and hopefully creative ideas to solve a problem.

The foundation of brainstorming is an atmosphere of suspended judgment - no criticism - so that a large number of ideas freely flow from the participants. Many solutions to complex problems come from ideas that might seem "crazy" at first, so Brainstorming is intended to encourage fresh thinking and "crazy" ideas.


The brainstorming session can be structured so that everyone participates in turn, or can be unstructured, with people given the opportunity to participate at any time. The structured session has the dual advantages of encouraging equal participation by all and not allowing anyone to dominate the exchange, but may not allow as much spontaneous free flow of ideas.

Structured Process

1. After forming the team, the problem to be solved is stated and written down for everyone to see.

  • Use a flipchart or whiteboard.
  • Make sure the problem is clearly stated, and everyone understands.
  • Review the process of how the brainstorming session will be conducted - the ground rules.

2. Moving around the room, each team member offers an idea.

  • Team members are free to pass at any time.
  • NO criticism of ideas is allowed - NONE

3. The team leader or a designated person records the ideas as they are generated on the flipchart or whiteboard.

  • Ensure that the words of the speaker are not paraphrased or edited - this can be a subtle form of criticism.
  • Verify with the speaker that the idea was worded correctly.

4. Keep moving around the room until there are no ideas left.

5. Review the list of ideas to make sure they are clearly worded, and eliminate duplicate ideas.

6. Group or combine ideas if there are natural categories.


The unstructured process follows the outline above with one difference - ideas are offered by anyone at any time rather than by ordered rotation around the room.

For additional information on brainstorming and the dialogue process, see:

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization Peter Senge ISBN 0-385-26095-4

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross, Smith ISBN 0-385-47256-0


Brainstorming is a fundamental tool of problem solving. This tool can get a project started, keep a project going, and discover the solutions which complete projects. The better at brainstorming one gets the better at problem solving a team gets. The solutions and ideas for success are out "there" and brainstorming sessions bring them out.

Register for Process Modeling Master Series

Want to learn more? offers a wide range of Lean Six Sigma online courses, including Black Belt, Green Belt, and DFSS training. Flexible training at an affordable price.