Published here November 2007.


Musings Index

Supercharged Brainstorming

Brainstorming is almost the default mode that a group, your project team for instance, falls into when encountering a problem and is searching for answers. Or perhaps they are just conducting a regular risk management session. Do they just sit down and brainstorm ideas? Do you throw out suggestions in the hope that it will trigger more and/or better ideas? In any case, as most project practitioners know, the routine is very easy. In the simplest but more structured case, there are five steps as follows.

  1. Identify the problem, issue or opportunity to brainstorm
  2. Characterize the problem, the goals and objectives, and identify the relevant data
  3. Speculate on all possible responses, no matter how apparently absurd
  4. Evaluate the findings by ranking them in order
  5. Select the best responses and present the results

(Note: You can find a more detailed description at

Now, author Kishore Dharmarajan has come out with a new book called Eightstorm: 8-Step Brainstorming for Innovative Managers in which he claims that you can improve your brainstorming substantially and bring massive benefits to your organization. He claims that it is an advanced and systematic form of brainstorming that boosts creative thinking capability. As the name of the book indicates, he calls it "Eight Storming". These eight steps are briefly described below.

  1. Interrogate: Ask questions for which you have no answers. (How can you solve the problem?)
  2. Navigate: Move to other fields for inspiration (if you are in banking, look at scuba diving.)
  3. Nuptial: All new ideas are combination of old ideas (camera plus phone, gave us that pesky camera phone.)
  4. Overturn: Turn a problem around on its head.
  5. Visualize: Turn your problem into a visual (Does your project look like a sinking ship?)
  6. Accelerate: Do rapid thinking. (Don't stop to question.)
  7. Transcend: Get rid of the first ideas that you get. They could be the weakest.
  8. Entertain: Create jokes around your problem because humor can trigger off new thoughts.

The more perceptive readers will observe that the first letters of each word for these eight steps spell out the acronym INNOVATE.

Here are more elaborate explanations of the eight steps above that you can use to improve your brain storming creativity, productivity and effectiveness at work and anywhere else:

1. ASK QUESTIONS. Ask questions for which you have no answers. When you don't have readymade answers, you are forced to leave your comfort zone and are bound to stretch your imagination. The better the questions you ask, the better your answers will be.

2. SEEK INSPIRATION FROM OTHER FIELDS. Move to another industry for inspiration. If you are in banking, look at scuba diving for ideas. Jot down 5 things that come to your mind when you think of scuba diving. For instance: goggles, floating objects, oxygen tanks, webbed feet and coral reefs. Now find banking ideas that relate to these random inputs.

3. COMBINE DIVERSE ELEMENTS. All new ideas are combinations of old concepts. Look out for existing ideas in your workplace that you can combine to create a new entity.

4. TAKE A 180-DEGREE LOOK. When you are looking for a solution, why not turn a problem around on its head and see what happens. Overturning a situation can lead to more solutions than you had imagined.

5. VISUALIZE THE SITUATION. If you have a problem and have difficulty in describing it, why not draw it. Doing simple scribbles can help you turn complex problems into easy to understand situations.

6. DO RAPID THINKING. If it's difficult to get one idea, try to get ten. Often, the thought of getting ten optional solutions to a problem will lessen the strain you feel in an idea-generating process. Plus the very act of generating multiple solutions in rapid succession will improve your innovative skills.

7. LEAP OVER THE OBVIOUS. The initial ideas that roll out in any discussion or brainstorming session will often be the weakest. Keep your eyes open for these obvious ideas and use them as a support to move ahead.

8. USE HUMOUR. Loosen your tie and make a hilarious comment on your current problem. Humor has the power to spark off unexpected ideas and can take you to new creative heights.

In a nutshell, it is quite easy to generate new and forceful ideas when you have the right tools with which to do it. Eightstorm: 8-Step Brainstorming For Innovative Managers is a simple book with a forceful message: Either you innovate or you perish. Written in the form of a fable, a disconcerted "Joe" seeks survival advice for his failing company from childhood friend Vitae who organizes expert instruction on this unique Eightstorm method. Interestingly, author Kishore Dharmarajan really does extend the boundaries of typical North American thought processes into new territory. Perhaps this is a result of his exposure to middle-eastern thinking as a result of his previous consulting work in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Thus, Eightstorm introduces an advanced brainstorming process that can generate breakthrough solutions and turn anyone into a highly innovative corporate thinker.

According to the author:

"If you have gone into a brainstorming session looking for ideas and come out with nothing but a headache, this book is for you. Using illustrative examples and step-by-step procedures, Eightstorm shows how this method can be used to create powerful ideas and breakthrough solutions."

Well, he would say that wouldn't he? After all, he is trying to sell his book![1] But on the whole we are inclined to agree.

1. Eightstorm: 8-Step brainstorming for Innovative Managers, by Kishore Dharmarajan is available from, published by BookSurge Publishing, Paperback: 112 pages,
ISBN-10: 1419668315 ISBN-13: 978-1419668319, list price US$12.95.
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