So how does a typical meeting go? We meet at a cafe or restaurant and catch up a bit, then I review the brainstorming rules if there are any guests. Regulars are quite familiar with the process and that's part of the fun. I pass out scrap paper and we each write a question. You can ask anything you want, trivial to life-altering. Someone pulls a random question and reads it aloud. We ask the person who wrote the question anything we need to clarify the question. It's rephrased as necessary to get to the root of the matter. If someone asks, "Should we get a dog?" it's helpful to know whether something might be driving the decision, if they really want a dog but need to know what to expect, etc. It's not always as it seems! After clarified, there's no further dialog with the person who asked the question and we start brain-storming.
For about 10 minutes, we go round and round the table and each person gives an idea or response. The idea is to go quickly, give the idea without embellishment... tangents... back-stories. We do not want to know that Janie's cousin's boyfriend's teacher's nephew tried the idea and it worked for them. There are no wrong answers. Anything goes. The person who asked the question just listens. That is soooooo hard. Someone documents the ideas.
Brainstorm responses can be applied to seemingly unrelated questions. One person asked, "How can I make a living with the knowledge I have about the biomedical treatment of a disease?" and the ideas generated apply to in-depth knowledge of any subject.
Some people don't even have a question!
Leading a brainstorming group requires little time other than the actual monthly meeting. The leader schedules meetings, reviews the process at each meeting and emails the brainstorms for each question to the group. You can post brainstorms to a blog, a Yahoo/Google group or Backpackit page if you want to keep track.
Check out some of the brainstorms we created together.