Brainstorming is the classical ideas generation tool, but many experts are coincident about its limitations. A Brainstorming session is asymmetric as a result of the different skills of the people involved. Additionally, simultaneous talking and hearing takes place, which is not the best alley for ideas generation. Brainwriting is said to be an enhanced variant of Brainstorming since it allows the ideas are more efficiently used as seed for new ones and it additionally permits participants’ reflection when generating thoughts which lead to new ideas. An alternative to Brainwriting is the technique known as “Think Tank”. It is based on the same principle, though it’s a little more dynamic because forces everybody to move around the room and choose the order they focus on each challenge.
The link below depicts 7 different creativity tools and the last one -whose author calls “trigger brain-walking”- contains the essence of the “Think Tank” technique, though in this case is even more elaborate since each “thinking station” includes a different tool instead of working under a classical Brainwriting scheme.
So, how does “Think Tank work? It is very useful when several challenges are managed simultaneously.
1) People must work around a table, where each challenge is distributed. They randomly choose a seat and sit down.
2) Each participant focuses on the challenge and suggests ideas. All ideas must be freely generated as people do in a brainstorming session, although in this activity no idea sharing takes place by talking to each other. Ideas are recorded on sticky notes. When each one runs out of ideas, leaves all notes on a row close to the border of the table and leaves the seat to choose a new one. Some people may finish before and some others later (depending on their creativity for a given challenge, the difficulty of the challenge, etc) but everybody can move freely without restriction and without having to wait for others to finish.
3) When moving, each person can arrive to a new challenge (where nobody was before) or by contrast sit on a place where somebody has already recorded several ideas. In the former case, the same process as in point 2) is applied. In the latter case, the sharing of ideas takes place. Before answering the challenge and providing new proposal to solve it, the previous ideas must be checked and read. The aim of this checking is to get inspiration from the previous people who worked with that given challenge, in order to produce evolved ideas with new subtle differences (or evident ones, why not!).
4) When finishing with the idea generation in the current seat, the sticky notes must be placed on a higher row close to the previous ones. It’s a way to separate the initial evolution from the next waves.
5) The process is repeated until several rows have been generated for each challenge (normally 3 or 4 is enough and a suggested time of 40-45 minutes is a good goal).
Try it, it’s simple and effective. An additional advantage is that it requires little facilitation skills if compared with Brainstorming, so its performance is quite good with little effort by the one leading the session.
Hail to the creativity!