Turbo Brainstorming: Pepping Project Management

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Brainstorming is one of the most common methods teams use to generate ideas. These sessions encourage creativity and innovation by fostering an open, accepting environment for exchanging thoughts. Traditional brainstorming techniques can be very time-consuming, however, and to improve the quality of the resulting proposals and speed up the creative process, many companies have adopted a technique known as turbo brainstorming.



Turbo brainstorming is faster (and, therefore, cheaper) than traditional brainstorming because of the way ideas are captured and sorted. Conventionally, scribes play a large part in brainstorming sessions, writing out suggestions on the pages of a flip chart.



A turbo brainstorming session, on the other hand, begins with a silent exercise, during which participants write their ideas on Post-it Notes, which can then easily be organized and rearranged during the discussion process.



Brian Mullen, Information Systems Planning Corp. (ISP) president and a pioneer of this technique, said that although traditional brainstorming sessions can take between three and four hours, turbo brainstorming sessions produce many quality ideas in about 30 to 45 minutes.



Turbo brainstorming speeds up the brainstorming process by maximizing individual productivity and allowing ideas to be organized in a visually accessible way, he said.



Instead of flipping back and forth through several pages of ideas, team members can quickly combine and rearrange ideas until they find the solution that best meets their needs.



This stimulates creative thinking and encourages the creation of breakthrough ideas, or solutions that were not apparent to the team when they were initially generating ideas, Mullen said.



This process also saves time during the back-end review process, he said — typically, groups working on a systems project will spend a lot of time on the back end, reviewing specifications at the end of the process, when most of the decisions already have been finalized.



Turbo brainstorming helps project managers begin with a better picture of the entire project and create more holistic solutions at the start of the job, Mullen said.



”If you have front-end brainstorming, you’re collecting more information and getting peoples’ ideas early, where you can incorporate them in the specifications,” he said. “So, you have a much greater opportunity for generating and incorporating breakthrough ideas in your solution.”



This process also enhances executive reviews, Mullen said — communicating ideas quickly and clearly to business leaders is often easier after a turbo brainstorming session because the presenters have a more thorough understanding of the solution and can provide executives well-organized outlines of what they need to proceed.



“An executive review opens communication channels with project sponsors and clients,” he said. “The team can present the results of the brainstorming session quickly and get executive feedback. Often, decisions can be made quickly, allowing the team to move forward.” 



Turbo brainstorming also can reduce the interpersonal conflict common in many brainstorming sessions, when people want their pet projects to make it through the final cut.



The fast-paced nature of turbo brainstorming sessions makes it is easier for teams to focus on creative thinking and steer clear of destructive comments, Mullen said.



“It shares information before anybody gets a chance to harden their positions,” Mullen said. “The way it’s designed, people are very goal-focused, and they share information very quickly. It generates more intense discussion and understanding, and the conflicts, like the storming phase that often occurs in the project world, don’t seem to occur.”

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