It’s said the best ideas come from those whose hands are the dirtiest. Unfortunately, these people are likely not to share ideas in fear of reprisal, fell their ideas aren’t worth the effort, or didn’t think their words would be considered much less heard. Discussion and conversation are part of a process called communication. It requires open and impartial observation, the less influence the better. This is where brainstorming comes into play.

 Brainstorming is perhaps the most useful and underrated tool in Lean. I’ve read different methods, participated in both personal and group sessions: Had many benefited, seen some that ended up in disaster.

 Asked the question, how is this possible?


 Make sure that brainstorming is just that: Throwing ideas out without prejudice and structure. I call it throwing dirty socks on the wall. Doesn’t matter which sock or how destructively filthy it is. What matters is that it’s thrown on the wall, any part of it that makes a statement: good, bad and indifferent.

My worst brainstorming experience came when the proctor who lead the group manipulated the session so that it sway an outcome .  For example, the group would throw out suggestions, good, bad and everything in between. He would write it on the board and prejudice the answer by either writing it small or placing it far away from the center or not near a group of ideas that he felt were important. Note the words “he felt were important.” I’ve seen it where the proctor would write in bold letters and circle an answer. Others were written but selectively set apart as if errant red headed step children. I believe that mind maps, fish bone analysis can follow the same caustic paths.

Key is that the team leader who stands in front of the white board offers no opinion. I participated in a session where no one was allowed to speak in the first phase. Instead, participants were to write their ideas on a piece of paper. These ideas were thrown into a box. The participants were then asked to pull a piece of paper out of the box and then write the idea on the board where it could fit on the fishbone diagram. No one was permitted to speak until all of the ideas were on the board, spaghetti written, somewhat chaotic, but on the board with no ego controlling the flow. As the board fills, creativity mind melds among the participants and the real discussions begin.

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