The importance of the braindump

People rarely enter a brainstorm (or any other thinking session) with an ‘empty’ mind. Most participants will start the session thinking about preferred approaches and directions. Any facilitator of a thinking session has to be wary of this.

If you fail to address the already existent ideas and beliefs, you will soon face the consequences. People will find ways to arrive at their pre-destined idea, regardless the thinking techniques you use. This (sometimes unconscious) tendency toward a predetermined direction is not the only drawback you’ll encounter. People will also be less open to other participant’s ideas when they are clinging to their own beliefs.

Luckily all of this is easily prevented. A so-called ‘braindump’ at the beginning of your session will lead to a much more creative outcome. It’s an incredibly simple exercise that enables every participant to break free from their pre-existing ideas.

Here’s how it works
With a braindump, participants basically empty their brains. During the braindump, everyone writes down all the ideas they already have and everything else that immediately pops into their minds. Give the group 5 to 10 minutes to jot everything down. Depending on how long participants have already thought about the challenge (and how complicated it is) writing time will vary. The facilitator should pay attention to the number of people actually writing and stop the time when most brains are ‘empty’. Now it’s time to discuss the ideas in the group. All ideas must be shared, but a debate has to be avoided. Once all ideas are shared (and briefly explained) it’s time to start the search for new, innovative ideas!

The many ideas that people had at the start of the session are now written down on paper. Make sure people know that this means these ideas will be part of the end result. When participants are confident their beloved ideas will be seriously considered in the evaluation phase, they will be willing to think about alternatives. Having ‘freed’ their minds, you can now use appropriate thinking techniques to help them look for ideas in very different directions.

Never start a thinking session without a braindump. While the activity doesn’t seem spectacular, spending some minutes emptying participant’s brains will invariably save your thinking session.


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