Brainstorming a Solution

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					Brainstorming a Solution
Brainstorming, when handled correctly, can provide an opportunity for everyone to have her or his say in the solution. It works best when trying to find solutions to already identified problems or challenges. It is not useful when identifying priorities or identifying problems. It provides a mechanism for encouraging creativity, thinking outside of the box, and moving away from “how we have always done it” or the safe answers. If not done correctly, it silences some people. If done correctly it can lead to the best possible solutions. Steps in brainstorming: 1. Clearly state the current problem or challenge. Write it down so that there can be clarity about the nature of the problem. 2. If the group is larger than ten or twelve, divide the group into smaller working groups, mixing the membership of work groups to distribute the personality “types” across the groups. An ideal size for this type of exercise is usually six to eight. 3. Provide each group with flipchart paper and pens. 4. Ask one member of each group to serve as recorder for the group. 5. Charge the groups with identifying possible solution ideas for the problem. a. No judgment is to be made about any idea. b. Every idea is to be recorded, no matter how expensive, outlandish, seemingly impossible or otherwise “non-librarianish” it is. c. Individuals are to call out ideas as fast as possible, with each person using previous ideas to spark other possible ideas. d. Individuals are not to censor their ideas; rather they are to share their most creative or even irreverent ideas. 6. When no further ideas are coming forth from the group, the group should remain quiet and study the list of ideas. 7. It is then time to perform triage on the list by identifying: a. Good ideas that will work & can be implemented within reasonable time/resources b. Good ideas that cannot be implemented – outside group’s authority, other reasons c. Good ideas that will work but will take time and resources to implement 8. It is then time to see if there are ways of combining ideas to form still more solutions or if the process of triage itself has resulted in some new ideas. This is the last call for ideas! Add any new solutions to the list. 9. Perform triage on any new ideas. 10. Good ideas that cannot be implemented should be identified and considered “parked” for future reference. They should not just be forgotten nor erased. 11. Good ideas that are “no-brainers” should be assigned to someone to carry out. 12. Good ideas that cannot be immediately implemented should be prioritized for further discussion, definition and possible full or partial implementation. 13. A report or minutes should be prepared that lists the solutions in each category. Example & exercise – The Mary Public Library serves 30,000 people and has an annual circulation of 500,000. Books, audio books and videos as well as other library materials are not getting from the point of “check-in” to their appropriate shelving or storage location fast enough. There is often a backlog of materials representing a 3 to 6 day period of returns. When things are not on the shelf they are unavailable to users. Having the right things but not having them available is worse than not having them at all. What can we do to improve the “turn around” time for materials? Each group will have fifteen minutes to work through the brainstorming process. At the end of 15 minutes each group will have 4 minutes to report their 3 types of ideas: “parked ideas” “no-brainers” and “ideas for further exploration and definition” with an eye towards possible implementation.

NLA/MPLA Conference
November 6, 2003 Incline Village Lake Tahoe Nevada

When People Cannot Play Nicely Together
Fishbowl approach: Sometimes we are in a situation where individuals have had an opportunity to consider options but it is time for the group to make a decision. If there are one or more “organizational terrorists” in the group or on the team, it may be necessary to provide a format that protects the timid from the bullies. One way of doing this is to give each person up to three or four minutes, in turn, to state their opinion and give their reasons for their opinion or whatever else they wish to say. A person may forfeit her or his assigned time but may not give it to someone else and cannot use more than the assigned 3 or 4 minutes. No one may respond or challenge anything said. After each person has had an initial opportunity to speak, go around the table one more time and this time each person is given only two minutes to speak. They may forfeit the time or use it themselves but cannot give it away. At the end of this turn, the question should be called or the vote taken, the ballots distributed – whatever is the appropriate decision-making process. This is not an approach to use often but it is sometimes the only way to allow people to state an opinion without fear of personal attack or other inappropriate communication from someone(s) in the group. When individuals are given limited time and limited turns they tend to use the time well. If they “grandstand” or play other power games they waste their limited turn and basically loose the opportunity to influence others. It really helps to “clean up their act” as it were.

Mary C. Bushing, Ed.D. Library Consultant & Educator 2121 S. Tracy Avenue Bozeman, MT 59715 (406) 587-4742

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