Why do companies use brainstorming?
Successful New Product Development (NPD) demands that firms meet market and customer needs. Brainstorming is a methodology that helps provide market guidance to the NPD project because it involves diverse people, gives several points of view, (1) and allows the NPD Team to get input from a large customer base (2). Customer interaction during the Fuzzy Front End of the innovation process is even more critical, and more useful, than in later stages of the New Product Development Process (2).
Considering the high risk and uncertainty of breakthrough product development efforts (3), companies can streamline their innovation efforts by focusing on the compelling value to the customer (4). One way to do so is to bring customer interaction into the idea generation process by describing their wants and needs through Market Research (2). Occasionally, firms should even include a customer representative in their idea generation, or brainstorming sessions, to ensure benefits of new product innovation are linked to customer demand.
So, what is brainstorming? Webster’s (5) defines brainstorming as:
The unrestrained offering of ideas or suggestions by all members of a conference to seek solutions to problems.
Whereas, the Product Development and Management Association (www.PDMA.org) defines brainstorming as follows.
A group method of creative problem-solving frequently used in product concept generation. There are many modifications in format, each variation with its own name. The basis of all these methods uses a group of people to creatively generate a list of ideas related to a particular topic. As many ideas as possible are listed before any critical evaluation is performed.
And yet another source (6) offers this definition of brainstorming.
Brainstorming allows teams to pool their knowledge and creativity in an open, non-critical environment. It is an effective technique when a solution to a problem is likely to be found with existing knowledge.
Each of these definitions offers insight to the process of creating ideas, the structure, and the desired outcome of a brainstorming session. Each of these definitions complements the others. Each of these definitions demonstrates that creative thinking involves experimentation, hypothesis, speculation, and trial and error (6). To narrowly define brainstorming using just a single viewpoint would bury the concept that diverse perspectives strengthen creative outcomes (7).
In this paper, we will identify three easy steps to a successful brainstorming session. These steps will help your company produce better ideas for new products and help to fill your product pipeline for the next generation, as well.
Note that each of these steps builds upon the other process steps: clear brainstorming session objectives requires effective teamwork and tools; a team with an open attitude toward innovation requires succinct goals for the brainstorming session; and selecting the appropriate tools and props for the brainstorming session requires an understanding of each team member’s expertise in the innovation area of interest. We will first take a look at Step 1, the tools and props needed to have a successful brainstorming session, and then work to the more difficult arenas of selecting team members (Step 2) and the specific objectives (Step 3) for innovation.
Read Step 1 here.
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