How to Gather Information from a Group

July 2023:

Brainstorming is a technique, generally used in a group setting, to quickly generate a variety of diverse ideas about a specific problem or topic. If used effectively, brainstorming will encourage creativity and engagement, and generate interest and excitement!

Here are four (4) variations of brainstorming you can use to gather information:
Unstructured Brainstorming
This process is what some might consider to be traditional brainstorming and is often a ‘go to’ method.

  • Introduce the problem or topic to the group by writing it on a flipchart
  • Pause for a moment to allow people to reflect on the topic
  • Encourage people to contribute ideas as they come to mind
  • Record ideas as they are presented – without discussion
  • When all ideas have been exhausted the brainstorming has been completed
Structured Brainstorming
This is a process that allows individuals an opportunity to generate their responses to a statement or question before contributing them to the group.

  • Introduce the problem or topic to the group by writing it on a flipchart
  • Provide people with paper and a pen/pencil, and allow them to work independently to generate ideas – at this point in time no discussion is permitted
  • Solicit one idea from each person in sequence, recording the ideas on the flipchart
  • Participants who do not have an idea when their turn comes can pass
  • A complete round of passes ends the brainstorming session
Silent Brainstorming
A process that also provides for written responses, however, it also introduces an element of anonymity.

  • Introduce the problem or topic to the group by writing it on a flipchart
  • Provide people with “post-it” notes and markers, and ask each person to work independently to generate ideas – at this point in time no discussion is permitted
  • Reinforce that names are not required on the “post-it” notes
  • Collect all the “post-it” notes and read them aloud (in random order) as they are posted on the flipchart page
  • The group may be invited to add to the ideas that have been generated
  • The brainstorming session is finished when all responses have been shared
Buzz Groups
This option requires a group to be broken down into smaller subgroups to consider a question and to report back to the larger group.

  • Introduce the problem or topic to the large group by writing it on a flipchart
  • Divide people into groups of 2 – 4 people providing each group with a copy of the question and clear directions (each buzz group works on the same question)
  • Set a time limit and ask each group to select a spokesperson
  • After the allotted time, each subgroup reports back to the larger group
Interested in learning more facilitation tips and techniques to help you host meaningful conversations? Contact us at info@trybarefoot.com to schedule a workshop for your team OR check out Public Workshops on our website for upcoming learning opportunities.

Cheers,
Gerard Murphy
Founder and CEO,
Barefoot Facilitation Inc.