Brainstorming: A Great Tool for Business Analysts and Everyone
In "Using the Brainstorming Technique in Business Analysis," Morgan Masters explains the benefits brainstorming throughout the project lifecycle. Brainstorming can certainly be a useful technique for eliciting ideas, requirements, or even potential solution options. Providing stakeholders with a creative environment in which they can take time out to share ideas can yield extremely useful results.
However, brainstorming works best when a safe and creative environment is created. It’s important that the facilitator works to create this safe environment, and it can be helpful to define—and get attendees to agree on—a set of ground rules. Common rules include suspending judgment, remaining focused, and feeling free to build on the ideas of others.
Preparing and planning a brainstorming session is key. It’s important to consider the personalities of the invited stakeholders. Will they jump at the chance to brainstorm or might they be reluctant? Are they likely to be mainly extroverts, introverts, or perhaps a mixture? It’s important that you choose the right sort of brainstorming activities to get their creative thoughts flowing.
If you have a room full of introverts, you might consider using a form of brainwriting or start the session with individual brainstorming as a warm-up. If you have some dominant characters attending, you may need to structure the session to ensure they don’t monopolize the airtime. It’s common to ask people to record their ideas on sticky memo-pads. You can choose to either have them state their idea as they write or do so silently.
Another important consideration is the issue of rank. Sometimes having a higher-ranking manager present makes some people reluctant to truly speak their mind. Consider setting the expectation upfront that everyone is equal, and build in brainstorming techniques that ensure all stakeholders leave their rank at the door.
A well-facilitated brainstorming session often will generate a high volume of ideas. It’s important to set the expectation that not every idea will be carried forward. It can be useful to carry out an affinity sort, where ideas are batched into similar themes. This can be followed by a group prioritization exercise, where the group agrees which ideas to carry forward.
Overall, brainstorming is an extremely useful tool within business analysis. However, in order to yield maximum results, brainstorming sessions need to be well planned and consider the needs and preferences of the attendees.