Brainstorming – Generate Ideas

Brainstorming, was originally created by Alexander Osborn in 1939 (CEO of BBDO, an advertising firm in New York) to separate ideation from evaluation. There has been a lot of discussion about whether it works.  My experience is that Brainstorming works when it’s executed properly.  Most of the complaints I read about Brainstorming describe poorly run brainstorming sessions. Follow the instructions below and you will be successful. Vary how you generate the list of ideas – calling out ideas and writing them on flip charts, individually anonymously writing ideas onto large Post-its, or listing in small groups, etc. The basics are the same, once you understand how it’s done. Note: There is no such thing as a “Brainstorming Session” – it is meaningless. You use brainstorming to generate ideas about… – it is a means to an end, not an end itself.

Note: I never use the word “Brainstorming“, I just explain the process.

Purpose:

 This is a basic ideation process that is designed to generate lots of ideas in a short amount of time and then analyze the list to develop a final list of acceptable ideas. It is not an end result. It is a means to an end. To succeed, you must clearly understand the end result (plan ahead) and be able to produce it without Brainstorming – by discussion instead. Note: Do not use Brainstorming to develop definitions or numerical solutions, such as, “How much money will we spend?” Author: Alexander Osborn created Brainstorming in 1939 and published books about it in the 1950’s as a means of ideation.

Objectives:

  • Generate lots of ideas in a short amount of time.
  • Analyze the list of ideas to develop a final list of acceptable ideas.

Do the following:

Brainstorming is a 3-step process: Think (to quietly jot down ideas), List (diverge – i.e., to generate lots of ideas), and Analyze (converge – i.e., to narrow it down to a final list of acceptable ideas). To set the stage, clearly explain the process and what will be done with the results.

Think: Ask a clear, simple question, e.g., “What are your objectives?” Give the Participants 5 minutes to think about the question and have them quietly jot down their ideas on a pad of paper.

List (diverge): Ensure that the Participants can see the question at all times. Then ask them to call out their ideas, without constraints. Write their ideas onto flip chart sheets that you had previously labeled – e.g., “Objectives”. Note: List all the ideas the group calls out. Stick to the Brainstorming Rules (see below) – moving away from the Brainstorming Rules causes a group to lose energy and valuable ideas. It is best to use flip charts to capture and manipulate an unconstrained list of ideas. Don’t tear off flip chart sheets while listing – tear them off at the end – otherwise it interrupts the process.

When you List, use the following Brainstorming Rules:

  • All ideas are allowed.
  • No questions.
  • No judging.
  • Fast pace.
  • No censoring.
  • High energy.
  • No discussion.

Analyze (converge): Analysis is done using a form of questions, as follows:

  • “Does this belong…?” This organizes and narrows the list.
  • “Can you describe this…?” Once the list is organized, describe each list item. If it cannot be described, it is removed from the list.
  • Which is most important? Use a Prioritizing process to select one amongst many.

Note: NEVER ASK THE GROUP “HOW SHOULD WE CATEGORIZE THE LIST?” If you do not know, you need to prepare more so that you can provide the analysis process. 

Debriefing Questions:

  • What did you learn about the topic that you didn’t know before?
  • Are there any surprises?  What are they?

Why FoCuSeD™ Facilitation? – Back to Basics

I’ve been in business for 30+ years. After awhile, I may take for granted that everyone knows what FoCuSeD™ facilitation is about and why it’s important. In this issue, I define FoCuSeD™ and why you don’t want to be un-FoCuSeD.

My facilitation technique journey began in 1985 with an article I wrote for Computerworld – creating FAST. Since then, I’ve revolutionized my facilitation technique creating a unique concept – Holistic FacilitationFoCuSeD™. Then, my focus was relative to IT – Information Technology. Today, I’ve broadened my focus to people and process skills that contribute to the overall well being of any organization. I’ve married the concepts of the Process-Consulting style with those of the Relationship-Developing style to create a balance allowing people to use facilitation skills in a wide variety of situations. FoCuSeD™, my brand of facilitation, is comprehensive and provides a complete set of people and process skills, knowledge, and practices that you are able to use immediately upon completion.

Why?

Over the years, companies have flattened their organizational structure and moved into more of a consensus-building culture. For this to work (and it does work), companies need effective facilitation skills in their ranks. Having people well trained in facilitation skills is the most cost-effective way to leverage the knowledge and skills of the people resources in any organization. It is a foundational skill for Knowledge Management.

How do I, Gary Rush, IAF CPF Train?

People ask me why I conduct a weeklong class. There are other places to go get train in less time.

Why the additional time? I teach my class in 3 segments:

  • People Skills
  • Process Skills
  • Practice

Each segment is important and requires hours of effort by the student.

People Skills

This segment is the foundation necessary for the facilitator to lead a group of people. I cover basic facilitation skills and provide the students with very specific tools. I discuss how groups evolve and “how to” manage group dynamics and conflict.

Process Skills

This segment focuses on “how to” develop an agenda (the method is the same for any agenda). After students understand the concepts, I then describe a variety of “cookbook” agendas. I finish with discussions of documentation, preparation, project planning, logistics, risk analysis, etc.

Practice

Facilitation is best learned through practice. Each student practices both people and process skills through numerous exercises, making them ready to facilitate upon completion.

Materials

Each student receives a 600+ page PDF version of the FoCuSeD™ Facilitator Guide. It covers everything a facilitator needs to facilitate effective workshops.

So…

All of this takes time and practice to learn. The time and money spent on the class is worth it – payback comes with the first workshop or meeting they lead. Note: I use the words as synonyms; facilitation skills help run better meetings and facilitate better workshops.

What makes FoCuSeD™ facilitation training different? It:

  • Covers all of business.
  • Teaches you the people and process concepts that must be holistically planned to achieve useful solutions.
  • Makes you practice – a lot, so that you can use the skills learned immediately upon completion.
  • Gives you a comprehensive reference manual that shares what I’ve learned over 30+ years.
  • Covers the IAF Core Facilitator Competencies – enabling those of you who wish to pursue your IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator (CPF) designation.

The major difference that I see is philosophy. I believe that people feel better when they learn – they gain confidence and self worth. I challenge students – people do great work when given the challenge and the opportunity.

Who to train?

Organizations struggle with whom to train. I tell organizations that facilitation skills’ training is highly effective in developing capable servant leaders. We’ve been in economic turmoil over the past years. Organizations need to do more with less. Providing organizations with effective facilitation skills is the most cost-effective way to leverage their people resources.

Why should YOU be trained?

Facilitation skills are THE skill set needed in the 21st Century. Business trends demand facilitation skills to be successful. This means that you, the trained facilitator, become more of a required and desirable resource for your organization. You owe it to yourself to develop a set of facilitation skills that prepares you for any future change – facilitation skills are indispensable to you both in business and in life.

Summary

Helping people come together to do good work is what facilitation is about.FoCuSeD facilitation Logo

“Chef” Gary Rush Leading Facilitator Trainer

“Recipes on a website about Structured Facilitation and Facilitator Training?”

Gary Rush, IAF CPF now MGR Consulting is Back! by: Millie Rush

Gary Rush leading Facilitator Trainer since 1985, Founder & CEO of MG Rush Systems, in 2004 ceased operations of MG Rush Systems, and left the U.S. to pursue his dream of becoming a restaurateur – MG Rush dba Miracles Restaurant, a critically acclaimed restaurant in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“Gary believes that pursuing dreams keeps us alive and growing. That our dreams provide synergies and lessons in life that we use as we pursue new goals and that it is never a mistake to pursue our dreams – it is a mistake not to.”

In 2005, after a one year absence, Gary returned to consulting and Facilitator training and reinstated MG Rush Systems, but because he had consented (did not constitute acquisition of MG Rush Systems – his company or his name “Gary Rush”, or 30+ years of creative achievements of either) to the use of the name “MG Rush” to Terrence Metz of Morgan Madison & Co. (not affiliated nor associated with Gary Rush, IAF CPF), he changed his company name from MG Rush Systems to MGR Consulting.

Gary Rush, IAF CPF now MGR Consulting, is back! – with a new company name, new web domain: mgrconsulting.com, new telephone # 773-330-2064, updated logo, new lessons learned, new ideas, tools and concepts, and a new product – FoCuSeD™ facilitation – the ultimate structured facilitation technique – a revolution from FAST facilitation (a proprietary product created by Gary), but with the same values, mission and vision, to continue his legacy as a recognized leader in the field of Structured Facilitation and Facilitator Training.

So, Gary is also a chef (read our FoCuSeD™ Facilitator eNewsletter Pursuing Dreams“).

 

FoCuSeD™ Facilitation vs. FAST Facilitation

In 1983, Chuck Morris, of IBM, trained me on a new facilitation concept – Joint Application Design (JAD). JAD facilitation was used for computer system design (IT). In October 1985, Computerworld published an article I wrote, “A Fast Way to Define System Requirements”. I wrote about the various facilitation techniques used to define system requirements, such as JAD. I then created FAST (Facilitation Application Specification Technique), my own structured facilitation technique to teach others “how to”. I named my facilitation technique FAST, after my article.

FAST

I created FAST based on JAD concepts of system design. I focused on the mechanics to make it work – preparation, interviewing, logistics, and “how to” conduct three workshops: Problem-solving (based on JAD-Plan), Requirements (based on structured analysis), and Design (based on JAD). As I learned to deal with people, I included some people skills. Over the years, as my facilitation experience grew, I added more processes, such as Strategic Planning, Data Modeling, Process Modeling, etc. I continually revised it until 2001. Throughout, FAST continued to be biased towards IT projects. I had the “what”.

FoCuSeD™ exceeds FAST

In 2007, I created FoCuSeD™ (Facilitation of Collaborative useful Solutions embracing Diversity) from an epiphany I had at the 2007 IAF North America Conference in Portland, OR. The epiphany came at a session given by Sam Kaner where he explained how groups behave before reaching consensus – they diverge, struggle, and then converge – thank you Sam. This enabled me to understand and explain both “how to” design a thought process introducing proper exercises depending on the needs of the group along with “why”. I was able to tie together people skills and process skills in one holistic process. As a result, I completely rewrote my class materials around this unique holistic process, added more people skills, specific tools tied to processes, processes covering everything from Strategic Planning and Analysis through Design and Problem-solving, and broadened the class materials beyond IT projects. I also included descriptions of the IAF Core Facilitator Competencies and cover them extensively so that anyone who wishes to pursue an IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator (CPF) will have the necessary background. Note: Remember, the only meaningful certification is when competencies are assessed and conferred by a recognized, independent industry association such as the IAF. Be wary of trainers who claim to certify those who attend their classes – this is misleading. Certification is meaningful only to that trainer.

FoCuSeD™ was the answer I was looking for – now I had the “why”, the “how”, and the “what”.

Bottom Line

FoCuSeD™ is a far more complete, comprehensive, and effective structured facilitation technique than FAST. It gives you:

  • A unique Holistic Facilitation Process design – FoCuSeD™ Holistic Facilitation Process Design – a critical process design that enables you to seamlessly integrate the workshop process to build a product parallel to the emotional group cycle.
  • Guidance when selecting and using processes.
  • Specific People and Process tools.
  • Detailed history of facilitation to help build clear context and foundation.
  • Guidance on “how to” and why use those specific People and Process tools.
  • Orientation towards all aspects of business and life.
  • Helpful virtual workshop guidelines.
  • Detailed descriptions of the IAF Core Facilitator Competencies and how to achieve them.

JAD was enhanced by FAST. FAST has been greatly enhanced by FoCuSeD™continuous innovation makes for better solutions.

FoCuSeD™ FacilitationLet’s Do This!