Involutionary Brainstorming

What is it?

Brainstorming is the rapid pooling of all and any ideas that a group of people can come up with before any discussion or judgement takes place. Every idea is recorded no matter how bizarre or irrational.

Enable individuals and groups to:

· Problem Solve

· Evaluate

How to Brainstorm

1.      Keep a relaxed atmosphere. Meetings should be disciplined but informal. If possible, choose an informal venue.

2.      Get the right size of team. The technique works best with groups of 5 to 7 people.

3.      Choose a leader. The leader checks that everyone understands what is going on and why.

4.      Define the problem clearly.

5.      Generate as many ideas as possible.

6.      Do not allow any evaluation and discussion.

7.      Give everyone equal opportunity to contribute.

8.      Write down EVERY idea – clearly and where everyone can see them.

9.      When all the ideas are listed, review them for clarification, making sure everyone understands each item. At this point you can eliminate duplications and remove ideas the group feels are no longer appropriate.

The Involutionary Part

10.  Allow each member of the group to allocate 3 votes to their preferred three items. The rewrite the list with the items that got the least or no votes at the top. Then discuss the items that got NO votes. These ideas usually tend to be “evolved out” of the list but are often, when given proper time for discussion, the very innovative ideas that are most needed.

Approaches to Brainstorming

1.      One-at-a-time – a member of the group offers one idea and the session continues this way until everyone has had a chance to add to the list.

2.      Open Door or Freewheeling – anyone who has a contribution speaks whenever he or she wants.

3.      Write-it down – ideas are written down rather than stated out loud, but everyone must be able to see each idea listed.

What is it ?

Involutionary brainstorming tries to focus on avoiding the rejection of even the most, apparently, crazy ideas, when considering a process innovation.

How to do it.

Here’s the process.

1.      Agree the topic to be brainstormed

2.      Brainstorming takes place following the usual ground rules for brainstorming (non judgmental, all ideas valid, one at a time)

3.      Ideas are then grouped and prioritised through voting

4.      The top ideas are then identified and put to one side.

5.      Bottom ideas are then explored and attempts made to justify them

6.      Top ideas are then revisited and possible re-prioritising is carried out

7.      Learning points are extracted from rejected ideas.

Why use it ?

The basic idea behind this technique is that the most popular ideas in a brainstorm are not necessarily the best ones in terms of innovation.


Voting is a evolutionary process. We exclude ideas and only the “fittest” survive. But are they really the fittest? Often innovation arises from ideas that were once thought to be crazy. By focusing on ideas at the bottom of the list, we are looking for potential innovations which popular vote has failed to see or give proper time to. Also, we ignore rejected ideas at our peril. These ideas came from individuals who may well be committed to them. Managing the “exit” of these ideas from the process is a critical aspect. The main way of doing this is to acknowledge these ideas and to draw learning and insight from them.

Also, many of the rejected ideas may have been rejected because they are seen to be too radical or ‘crazy’. Yet it may well be these very ideas, which, on deeper examination, contain the seeds of future innovation.

Read more on involutionary thinking here.