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Brainstorming and Crowdsourcing – Part II

Read Part I of this post, How to Get the Best Ideas from Your Team and Your Expanded Team.

Can you expect pattern-busting breakthroughs if your team is only three or four people? Probably not. You are very unlikely to have significant diversity with such a small number of people Brainstorming with a larger group, when done well, and with sufficient diversity can produce many good ideas. Sometimes one person’s idea triggers new combinations and other useful “piggyback” ideas. That is why it is so important to follow basic rules of brainstorming such as disallowing ANY editing as you generate ideas.

Wider diversity produces more ideas. The goal of any brainstorming session is to produce as many ideas as possible. Here is what happened with one group, made up of four teams. While facilitating a project planning session, I asked the teams to brainstorm.  (I forget the topic.)  After splitting up the teams, I moved from team to team to monitor their results.  When I got to the fourth group, I was stunned to see that they had only five ideas, while the other three teams had at least one flip chart page of ideas!  I listened for about two minutes, and saw the problem.  One team forgot the editing rule.  Every time anyone contributed an idea, one of their members would say: “Oh, that comes under that one.”  Wow!  This one person was blocking the input of diverse ideas from everyone else!

Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production technique for gathering ideas or funding from larger numbers of people. Some organizations have used a type of crowdsourcing using email to solicit suggestions about social events, such as where to have the annual awards dinner. Others have used crowdsourcing and the Internet to get diverse ideas, or funding, or to conduct surveys from thousands of people. Most of these people are complete strangers to one another.

Crowdsourcing is a worldwide phenomenon that has been used since Christmas Day 1900 by the National Audubon Society. Although they didn’t use the term crowdsourcing on that date they organized people throughout the western hemisphere to do an annual count of birds for the first time.

At this point in the history of the United States, we have an urgent need for good ideas and teamwork. Brainstorming and Crowdsourcing are excellent techniques for collecting information from diverse groups and teams.  Depending on the task or information being sought, attempting to pull together people who possess the various intelligences will increase the quality and quantity of ideas.

To get the best ideas from your team and your expanded team:

  1. Seek teammates who have the various intelligences for your team. Even a group of design engineers may possess overlapping, yet different intelligences as shown by their hobbies outside of work.
  2. Recruit teammates who have a variety of backgrounds, specialties, ages, values, beliefs, and personalities.
  3. Be open to new ways of seeing things and new paths of reasoning.
  4. Be willing to discuss and consider new and even “crazy” ideas.
  5. When necessary, allow sufficient time for discussion, short of “analysis paralysis” before making important decisions.
  6. Ask questions to understand others’ ideas clearly.
  7. Use brainstorming and crowdsourcing to increase the quantity, quality, and variety of ideas.

Thomas Charles Belanger is the author of Teamwork in Ten Days: Building Successful Teams in the Arts, Sports, Business, and Government, available at and Barnes and Noble.

©2012, Thomas Belanger

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