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Brainstorming in Organizations

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The term brainstorming has become a common word in the English language, a generic term to design creative thinking, unchained.

Online Course: Knowledge Management in Organizations

Brainstorming works by focusing on a problem, and then deliberately coming up - without a predefined order - with as many original solutions as possible, pushing ideas to the limit.

Knowledge Master is the ideal system for brainstorming. Brainstorming is universal method for the  stimulation of creativity and innovation.


The basis of brainstorming is generating ideas, individually or in a group, based on the principle of suspending judgment: a principle which scientific research has proved  to be highly productive in individual effort as well as in group effort.

The whole idea of group brainstorming is that other people's remarks would act to stimulate your own ideas in a sort of chain reaction of ideas.

Meeting-1.gifCertainly, groups are not indispensable to stimulate creative thinking. Individually we can brainstorm. Furthermore, in a group we must listen to others and maybe spend time repeating our own ideas to get sufficient attention from the others. 

Another interesting and productive approach is to individually generate the central idea, and afterwards have it developed by others in more directions. Usually we get more than what could be obtained by the originator.

It is always possible to newly analyze the output of a brainstorming session in a second group (more reduced or more specialized than the first one), to try to improve solutions even with other tools - even more conventional.

It is essential that the ideas generation phase is separated from the judgment phase of thinking

The judgment phase is not less important. The resulting idea map will be studied and processed, annotating every element, connecting local or network information, and classifying  nodes until a state considered acceptable will be reached, suitable to extract the necessary conclusions.

Some people are intuitive and flexible, others are rigid and logical. The creative thinker may be more productive in the initial phase of brainstorming, and the critical thinker in evaluating the real possibilities of concreteness.

Anyway, the ideal working environment for the cognitive activity is first of all a knowledge processing environment, at its best when it is computer based.

Knowledge Master is a global  system facility for brainstorming, ideal for brainstorming because it enables creating and managing knowledge resources simply and directly:
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A brainstorming session with Knowledge Master is very simple: it enables simply and effortlessly to insert the brainstorming cognitive elements in the map, and connect them directly to data, because information is always available.

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It is very simple to insert new cognitive elements, individually or in a group. 

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With Knowledge Master already during brainstorming, it is possible to associate metadata (information categories), search and retrieval of whatever kind of information in the system, and even directly access WWW resources.

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In the judgment and evaluation phase it is possible to create structures similar to those of semantic networks, usable as work tools in the successive phases.

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It is possible to identify text sequences even in large files, using them as elements of our cognitive system.

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The possibility of stratifying maps in layers (or dimensions) enables considering as unlimited the available graphical representation space.

What really renders useful the brainstorming activity is getting to understand and harmonize the elements that respond to the classical questions:

 Who,  What, Why, When, Where, How, How much.

Individual or group brainstorming?

Brainstorming can either be carried out  efficiently by individuals, groups or both:
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The most convenient map type for the brainstorming initial phase is the mind map; you can start the mind map from scratch or select the mind map template, ready made in Knowledge Master. Just replace the conventional default names and complete.

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Individual brainstorming tends to produce a wider range of ideas than group brainstorming, but tends not to develop the ideas as effectively, perhaps as individuals on their own run up against problems they cannot solve. Individuals are free to explore ideas in their own time without any fear of criticism, and without being dominated by other group members.

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Group brainstorming develops ideas more deeply and effectively, as when difficulties in the development of an idea by one person are reached, another person's creativity and experience can be used to break them down. Group brainstorming tends to produce fewer ideas (as time is spent developing ideas in depth) and can lead to the suppression of creative but quiet people by loud and uncreative ones.

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Individual and group brainstorming can be mixed, perhaps by defining a problem individually, and then letting team members initially come up with a wide range of possibly shallow solutions. These solutions could then be enhanced and developed by group brainstorming.



A few simple rules to successful group brainstorming:

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A leader should take control of the session, initially defining the problem to be solved with any criteria that must be met, and then keeping the session on course. The leader should try to keep the brainstorming on subject, and should try to steer it towards the development of some practical solutions. Often, this function is entrusted to an external consultant.

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The brainstorming leader recodes contributions and guides the session.

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He or she should encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among participants and encourage participation by all members of the team. The session should be announced as lasting a fixed length of time, and the leader should ensure that no train of thought is followed for too long. 

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Participants in the brainstorming process should come from as wide a range of disciplines with as broad a range of experience as possible. This brings many more creative ideas to the session.

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Participants should be encouraged to have fun brainstorming, coming up with as many ideas as possible, from solidly practical ones to wildly impractical ones in an environment where creativity is welcomed. All ideas will be accepted and inserted.

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Ideas must not be criticized or evaluated during the brainstorming session. Criticism introduces an element of risk for a group member in putting forward an idea. This stifles creativity and cripples the free running nature of a good brainstorming session, blocking the smooth running of brainstorming. It's a lot easier to discard the less important ideas at the end than having more. (But isn't it a time loss? No, if these ideas apparently unrealizable or strange, stimulate other original or innovative ideas in other group members…).

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Participants must be encouraged to build on other peoples' ideas, and try combinations, enhancements and improvements.

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Participants should not only come up with new ideas in a brainstorming session, but should also 'spark off' from associations with other people's ideas and develop other people's ideas.

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Another approach is making a group develop on a central idea generated by an individual, in several directions, more than what the original author could have done.


At the end, the task of effectively and efficiently organizing information, corresponds individually to almost everyone in an organization that intensively  manages information.

That's why it is important to adopt the more efficient and productive tools and techniques.


Everyone agrees that computer aided brainstorming (group or individual) is the more productive.

Using Knowledge Master is the modern and efficient solution, because it is technically powerful, intuitive and simple to use

Purposes of Brainstorming:
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To focus participants' attention on a particular topic at the time.

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To generate a quantity of ideas.

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The integration of collective thinking with mental models.

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To encourage participants to take risks in sharing their ideas and opinions.

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To introduce the practice of idea collection prior to beginning tasks

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To stimulate creativity expanding ideas by building on each other's contributions.


It is advisable to start a Knowledge Master mind map (even from the template).
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Introduce the topic or pose a question.

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Ask participants to take turns sharing ideas and possible answers.

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Encourage all participants to participate.

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Write the proposals or words or phrases in the map scheme.

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Acknowledge the richness of ideas and solutions.

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Establish a warm, supportive environment.

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Emphasize that a quantity of ideas is the goal.

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Discourage evaluative or critical comments from peers.

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Encourage and provide opportunity for all to participate.

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Initially emphasize the importance of listening to expressed ideas.

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Update constantly the map that contains the group's work, and at the end print the map for all participants. 

Adaptations and applications:

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Eventually, use KM check lists as reference or stimulator.

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Use already processed maps from previous brainstorming sessions. 


Some rules and advice for best brainstorming in organizations:

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Speak for all ("to the center"), not to specific people.

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Postpone opinions.

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Suspend certainties.

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Get insight about assumptions.

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Listen to yourself (when you speak and when you think).

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Ponder doubts about the others (open mind) and certainties about your own opinions.

Brainstorming, generative thinking and mental models:

Generative thinking is real, original thinking, it requires a discontinuity of our own thinking. De Bono calls it lateral thinking, as opposed to vertical (or linear) thinking. Generative thinking is not about problem solving but about trying to bracket the problem to be solved, to focus on what is important. Recognizing what is important is equivalent to 50% of the solution.

Another aspect to consider also in brainstorming sessions, is that organizations are political systems in which people (individually or in groups) try to acquire and keep control of resources to reach their own goals or guarantee their own interests.

One of the outcomes of brainstorming is the integration of collective thinking and mental models*.

Mental model. The concept the individual has of himself, about the others, of his environment and about the things he interacts with. More than objective analysis, the mental model is an interpretation. Language, for example, has a role in the active generation of meaning by the receiver, that passes through an objective translation, a filter between objective reality and cognition. Mental models are, consequently, individual interpretations; more than objective representations are analogies. Mental models evolve with learning, experience and training.

* From the book "Concept maps. Knowledge management in education". Hernandez Forte, Alfaomega, Mexico. 2005 and 2007. (in Spanish: Mapas conceptuales. La gestión del conocimiento en la didáctica).


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:: Pages for a deeper insight ::

punto elenco Knowledge Management in Organizations
punto elenco Organizational Learning
punto elenco The Knowledge Manager Job
punto elenco Creativity, Innovation and knowledge management
punto elenco Project management with knowledge management tools

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