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Hybrid Group Brainstorming

A variety of reasons play a role in the behavior of an individual within a group context. Through the lens of Psychology alone, factors like fear, rejection and self-esteem significantly stifle a person’s ability to contribute value. Corporate stigmas like bureaucracy, hierarchy and personal agendas dramatically alter the immediate and the long-term performance of a team, and the organization.
A study (PDF) conducted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and INSTEAD Business School revealed that traditional group brainstorming sessions yield ideas that are both lower in quality and quantity. Allowing time for participants to individually generate ideas, then bring the ideas into the collaborative environment proved to be ideal.
Based on this research, I’ve developed a Dynamically Hybrid Group Brainstorming method. This approach allows for the ideal time and setting needed for optimal individual thinking by allowing members to approach the challenge individually in their own environment under terms that stimulate creative thought and ideas.


  • The Brief – Write down the challenge or the objectives. Make sure the brief is concise, and general enough as not to imply any ideas or directions. Your challenge needs to be well thought out and clear, preferably written in an Invitational Stem format (“In What Ways Might We______“). Establish specific deadlines.
  • The Participants – Select the participants. The facilitator will distribute and collect the ideas.
  • The Exchange – Set up a way to anonymously exchange the ideas. It could be through email, online or paper. Setting up a online password-protected publishing platform using WordPress is a great location for the exchange to happen. Publish your brief as a post and allow commenting. Advise each participant to submit their ideas as comments using factitious names. And, make sure that all comments are held for moderation by checking the option “administrator must always approve the comment” (located in the Discussion settings). This way, participants will not see other participant’s ideas. Once all ideas have been submitted, the administrator will approve the comments, thus making the submissions viewable by the group.

1. Distribute Brief – Make the brief public to the participants. Instruct them to come up with ideas and submit the results by a specific deadline. Advise everyone not to spend too much time elaborating on each idea, simply note the idea or thought, and move on. Quantity is more important than quality at this point. Encourage the individuals to work in their desired environments (cafe, bookstore, etc.)

2. Collect 1st Round – Collect the first round of ideas generated by the individuals. Combine all ideas into a list in one location (single email or Word document) without the author acknowledgment. As facilitator, do not organize the ideas.
3. Distribute 1st Round – Distribute the 1st round of ideas back to all participants. Do not attribute names to ideas, keep them blind. Encourage the participants to either build upon the ideas, or generate new ones. This step can be repeated numerous times. Quantity is also preferred over quality in this phase.
4. Collect Final Round – Collect the final round of ideas. Take the time to separate all ideas onto paper, ideally one idea per sheet. If a comment has been made to an previous idea, combine the two as one. Do not organize or group the ideas.
5. Team Collaboration – Bring all participants together. Layout the ideas on a table or wall, in no particular order. Collaboratively begin building upon the ideas. Look for patterns, themes and new opportunities. Use additional brainstorming and creative thinking techniques to draw out and refine ideas. As facilitator, you may allow a short time for the team to build up the quantity of ideas, but this final phase ultimately focuses on Convergent Thinking; narrowing down from multiple options to one by means of identifying the opportunity and quality factors of an idea.
Points to Consider:

  • Setting up an entire process to occur within several hours can be effective. Tight constrains can contribute positively to the overall process.
  • Strategically pick the participants whose contributions would provide a greater degree of variety and unique perspectives.
  • Not all individuals are required to participate in all phases of the process. The final team collaboration could be a smaller group.

This article covered the Hybrid aspect of this method. The next article will dive into the Dynamics of the process. Feel free to leave a response on your experience with this technique. If you have any questions, email me at ideas@suchchaos.com or reach out @AndreIvanchuk

Published - January 29, 2011

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