Sunday, June 1, 2008


Every project must include brainstorming in its design phase. Who should be part of this brainstorming session? I think it should include the entire ID team: instructional designers, visual designers, ID reviewers, graphic designers, programmers, and if possible, SME. The saying 'Too many cooks spoil the broth' does not hold good here. In this case, 'more the merrier' applies better. Any one attached to the project can be part of the brainstorming session.

Planning for the session
  1. The project lead must assign a day and time for the brainstorming session.
  2. Send mails to the team with the content dump or raw content, the learning objectives, learner persona, and schedule for this activity.
  3. Give them three days (may vary) learning time. This is to ensure that everyone has gone through the material before they meet. Everyone will be on the same plane and this will be the foundation of the discussion.
  4. You can also break the brainstorming across a few days to ensure that it is not too much for the participants. We, typically, start with macro design brainstorming and then move to micro design or page-level brainstorming.
  5. Arrange a place where the brainstorming session will be held. Ensure that the room can accommodate all participants. You should ensure that everyone will be facing each other. This ensures active participation by all.
During the session
  1. Appoint one person as the mediator. This person can introduce the topic and write down the points on the white board.
  2. He/she must list the rules of the session. These are:
    1. Any idea is welcome. No idea will be scorned at or mocked.
    2. List down all the ideas and then discuss each one by one the pros and cons and whether it is feasible or not.
    3. Do not judge or negate anything immediately. An idea will be rejected based on the consensus of the group.
    4. Similarly, the strategy will be decided based on consensus of the group. Discussions will continue till everyone agrees to an idea.
    5. There is no limit to the number of ideas. Keep noting till no more come up.
    6. Encourage everyone to participate and share their ideas.
    7. Ensure that the conversation does not digress into other topics or a specific idea.
  3. Discuss the ideas written on the white board one by one. One by one drop the ideas that won't work. Discuss till you gain a buy in from all.

  • It helps think of various alternatives keeping in mind the learners, the learning objectives, and the project constraints.
  • It ensures the buy-in of the whole team. Everyone understands how to proceed and are on the same page. Active participation of the team ensures that they are more involved in the project (beginning to end).
  • It ensures that you do things differently each time. Your courses will be innovative.
  • It increases quality as everyone is working toward a common goal and every stage value will be added as rework will be minimal.
  • It increases the motivational level of the team. Everyone will do their best as now it is their 'baby' too.


mysterious said...

Nice article Archie,

I liked the whole idea and especially "Any one attached to the project can be part of the brainstorming session".Obviously it will decrease the rework, and we can avoid the miscommunication and mis-understandings also. Later, we wont get the answers "Oh, was it like that, i dint know, i thought like this..." and all.

Really useful.

Archana Narayan said...

Thanks Nishana :). It not only ensures that rework does not happen, it generates higher quality course. Plus you have thought through almost everything so the unexpected surprises will be minimum.

Asim said...

I totally agree about including the entire team, as being a visual designer, I can express my views in which a particular concept can be presented. It will have the scope for discussion, its feasibility and we all can focus on the goals as a team rather than having some1 doing the ideation and others purely implementing it without understanding!! :)
I truely support this process!
Thanks for sharing it!
Asim Shaikh

Archana Narayan said...

Thanks for sharing your views Ashim. :)

When everyone is present during the brainstorming session, their visualization skills also improve.