The Imperial iGEM'07 team's choice of endeavour was the culmination of all our brainstorming sessions - in all a grueling 2 weeks before we narrowed our selection to a few ideas.
These are the projects that met our feasibility criteria.
Click here for the list of discarded ideas.
(WARNING: Really long page)
Notes on Brainstorming Techniques
- Brainstorming sessions work best if there is a specific problem or opportunity statement to guide the thinking, that describes what is to be achieved or investigated. However, the statement must not hint at the type of solution, as this may hinder idea generation. It is often suggested that thinkers not look into other solutions to the problem before brainstorming, as this tends to restrict the line of thinking to already existing solutions and results in similar answers.
- Appointing a facilitator also aids in the process. This person should state the objective, keep track of time, and make sure the session rules are obeyed. They must ensure that the session runs smoothly, that participants feel comfortable, that everyone participates, and they will also rekindle the creative process if it slows down. The facilitator position is sensitive, though. It is often prudent to appoint a person from outside the group, without a vested interest, biased point of view, or complicated relation to other members of the group.
- Participants should be encouraged to develop each others ideas further, or to use other ideas to create new ones. However, single ideas should not be discussed for too long.
- Plenty of paper and pens should be available for writing down thoughts. All thinkers should have a writing pad, and if possible, flip-charts should be within easy reach for everyone. All ideas should be written down, without discrimination.
- An enthusiastic, uncritical attitude should be encouraged - it must be ensured that no one criticises or evaluates ideas during the session. Criticism adds an element of risk to proposing new ideas, and this stifles the creativity and flow of the session. In no way should participants be made to feel criticised, uncomfortable, or threatened (i.e. mean looks, derogatory jokes, imposing body language, supervisors hovering behind participants, etc. should all be avoided.)
- The environment and arrangement of participants will also affect the process. Richer environments tend to produce better sessions than bland ones, but distractions should be avoided. Participants should, ideally, sit around a circular table, such that each individual has an equal standing and no one becomes the focus of attention by virtue of their position (that is, avoid having a 'head of table').
- Having random material such as books, magazines, toys, strange objects, etc. may help rekindle the process if it slows down, or offer a source of inspiration. However, participants must not spend too much time with these - ten or twenty seconds should be enough, but more may interfere with focus.
For those who want to read more about brainstorming, the following references were useful. In particular, the Wikipedia article linked below gives a very good overview of the process, and of a few different methods to conduct a session.