Brainstorming Guidelines

Brainstorming is a process for creating a broad list of ideas in response to an initial question or idea.

    Brainstorming emphasizes:

    • broad and creative thinking
    • inviting all participants' points of view
    • ensuring that all relevant aspects of an issue or question are considered


    Flipchart, markers, tape

    Brainstorming steps

    1. Introduce the question to be brainstormed and review the rules of brainstorming:
      • All ideas are welcome
      • No comments or evaluation during the brainstorm
      • The more ideas the better
      • Don't worry about duplicate ideas at this point
    2. Explain what will be done with the brainstormed ideas (for options see From Brainstorming to Action, below)
    3. Write the question to be brainstormed at the top of the first page of flipchart paper.
    4. If you wish, offer a one minute "quiet period" before the brainstorm for people to think about the question and jot down a few ideas
    5. Begin the brainstorm.
      • Guide the brainstorm by recording ideas on a flipchart or whiteboard as they come. You may wish to designate a recorder (see Tips for Recording). Stop any comments that evaluate ideas. Invite new ideas, and encourage the group to share their ideas freely. Help generate energy and free-thinking through encouragement.
      • When one flipchart page is full, tear and post it where it is visible, then start the next page.
      • As the responses slow down, offer last chances for additional ideas, then stop the brainstorm. Ask the recorder for his or her ideas. Thank people for participating.
    6. Number or letter the ideas when you have the full list, so people can more easily refer to a particular idea.
    7. Ask for clarification of any ideas that are not clear to you or others.

    Tips from experience

    Brainstorming relies on people thinking and sharing freely. Remind participants of this as you enter the activity, and reinforce the first few ideas to help everyone participate freely and fully.

    Visit our list of helpful Tips for Recording.

    From brainstorming to action

    What do you do with your brainstormed list? Here are some options.

    You may want to take the list to review yourself, and use the ideas to make a decision or identify next steps.

    You may want to discuss the ideas by asking the group to make comments on each idea according to some criterion (e.g., "Let's go down the list and give me a next step for making this idea happen.")

    You may want to develop a shorter list from the full list by prioritizing the items according to your own criteria or by group opinion.