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“The hardest single part of building a software system is deciding precisely what to build. No other part of the conceptual work is as difficult as establishing the detailed technical requirements…No other part of the work so cripples the resulting system if done wrong. No other part is as difficult to rectify later.” -- Frederick Brooks

benefits of brainstorming
Benefits of Brainstorming
  • It encourages participation by all parties present.
  • It allows participants to “piggyback” on one another’s ideas.
  • It has a high bandwidth. Many ideas can be generated in a short period of time.
  • The results typically indicate a number of possible solutions to whatever problem is posed.
  • It encourages out-of-the-box thinking, that is, thinking unlimited by normal constraints.
the two phases of brainstorming
The Two Phases of Brainstorming
  • Idea Generation:

The goal is to delineate as many ideas as possible, focusing on breadth of ideas, not necessarily depth.

  • Idea Reduction:

The goal is to analyze all the ideas generated. This includes pruning, organizing, ranking, expanding, grouping, refining, etc.

live brainstorming
Live Brainstorming
  • All key stakeholders gather in one room.
  • Supplies are distributed consisting of large sticky notes and marking pens.
  • Facilitator explains rules:
    • Do not allow criticism or debate
    • Let your imagination soar
    • Generate as many ideas as possible
    • Mutate and combine ideas
live brainstorming cont d
Live Brainstorming (Cont’d)
  • Facilitator explains objective, e.g.
    • Determine what features you would like to see in the product.
    • Determine what services the product should provide.
    • Investigate what opportunities we are missing in the product, or the market.
live brainstorming cont d7
Live Brainstorming (Cont’d)
  • Facilitator asks participants to share their ideas aloud and write them down, one idea per sheet.
    • They are stated out loud so others can “piggyback” their ideas. This process often gives rise to the best ideas.
    • No criticism or debate is allowed. If this rule is not enforced, some will be reluctant to contribute ideas.
live brainstorming cont d8
Live Brainstorming (Cont’d)
  • When a person comes up with an idea, he or she writes it down. Writing it down is important:
    • To make sure the idea is captured in that person’s own words.
    • To make sure ideas are not lost.
    • To enable posting of ideas for later “piggybacking”.
    • To prevent delays in the creative process that could be caused by a single scribe trying to capture all the ideas on a flip chart or white board in the front of the room.
  • Idea generation should proceed until all participants feel it has reached a natural end.
idea reduction
Idea Reduction
  • When idea-generation ends, it’s time to begin idea reduction consisting of the following steps:
    • Pruning
    • Grouping Ideas
    • Feature Definition
    • Prioritization
  • The goal is to eliminate (“prune”) those ideas not worthy of further investigation.
  • The facilitator goes though the ideas one-by-one and asks for concurrence from the group that each is valid.
  • When everyone agrees that an idea is invalid, it is removed.
  • If there is any disagreement about removing an idea, the idea stays.
grouping ideas
Grouping Ideas
  • It is usually helpful to group similar ideas together.
  • They may be grouped into categories such as:
    • New features
    • Performance issues
    • Enhancements to current features
    • User interface and ease-of-use issues
    • Security and safety issues
    • Maintenance issues
    • Etc.
grouping ideas cont d
Grouping Ideas (Cont’d)
  • Alternatively, they may be grouped in categories based on capabilities of the system, and/or the way they support different users, e.g.:
    • Package routing and tracking
    • Customer service
    • Marketing and sales
    • Web-based services
    • Billing
    • Transportation management
feature definition
Feature Definition
  • A short description of what is meant by each idea is prepared by the person who submitted it.
  • This ensures that all participants understand exactly what was meant by each idea.
  • The facilitator walks through all the ideas not pruned and asks the submitter for a one-sentence description (the essence of the idea) of each.
  • This process may result in changes to the groupings of the ideas.
  • An identifier (e.g. a number) should be associated with each idea.
  • Once the groupings of ideas have stabilized, the ideas should be prioritized since it is unlikely that all can be implemented (at least in the first release).
  • Two ideas for prioritization are:
    • Cumulative Voting: The Hundred-Dollar Test
    • The “Critical, Important, Useful” Categorization
cumulative voting the hundred dollar test
Cumulative Voting: The Hundred-Dollar Test
  • Each member of the group is given $100 in “idea money” to be spent on purchasing ideas.
  • All participants write down on a piece of paper how much they are willing to spend on each idea they think is important (i.e., they vote with dollars).
  • The results are tabulated and the ideas are ordered based on the results.
  • It might be necessary to limit how much can be spent on a single idea.
the critical important useful categorization
The “Critical, Important, Useful” Categorization
  • Each participant is given a number of votes equal to the number of ideas, one-third of which are “critical”, one-third are “important” and one-third are “useful”.
  • Each participant assigns one vote (critical, important, or useful) to each of the ideas.
  • The results are tabulated where a critical vote is given a value of 9, an important vote is 3, and a useful vote is a 1.
  • The ideas are prioritized based on the computed sums.
meanings of critical important and useful
Meanings of “Critical”, “Important”, and “Useful”
  • Critical means “indispensable”, suggesting that a stakeholder would not be able to use the system without this feature. Without the feature, the system does not fulfill its primary mission, its role and it therefore not worth releasing.
  • Important means that there will be a significant loss of customer utility or market share or revenue or new customer segments served. If the important items don’t get implemented, some users would not like the product and would not buy it.
  • Useful means nice to have. The feature makes life easier, makes the system more appealing, more fun, or delivers higher utility.
web based brainstorming
Web-Based Brainstorming
  • Sometimes live brainstorming is not possible, or practical.
  • In such cases, a Web based discussion can be conducted.
  • This is particularly suited for developing advanced applications for which research is required or a long-term view is critical, the concept is initially fuzzy, and a wide variety and significant number of user and other stakeholders inputs are involved.
  • An advantage of this technique is its persistence; ideas and comments can be circulated over a long period of time, with full recording of all threads for each idea.
  • Ideas can grow and mature with the passage of time.