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What is Brainswarming and how does it compare to Brainstorming?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 32740 Views // 0 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Analytical and Problem Solving Skills, Elicitation (BABOK KA), Tools


Brainstorming, the practice of a team coming together to share ideas while withholding judgement, has been around since the 1950s with the promise of producing more ideas and promoting creative solutions.

However, it has pointed out that brainstorming can be much less effective than promised or hoped. There are no studies that have shown brainstorming produces better results than people working alone for a while and then coming together to share their ideas and build on them.

Brainstorming sessions encounter several common challenges:

1) Strong personalities among the group tend to dominate the discussion, limiting a diversity of ideas from different people.
2) Some ideas are immediately dismissed as far fetched or missing the mark.
3) It can be time consuming especially given the number of participants that are usually involved.

Out of these challenges Tony McCaffrey, Chief Technoloyg Officer at Innovation Accelerator, worked to create a new problem solving and idea generation technique called Brainswarming.

Brainswarming is a problem solving technique which questions why we really need to talk in the first place. Perhaps this sounds exaggerated . But the basis for the question can be explained by studying insects. Ants communicate by leaving signals (chemical signals) in their environment. These signals influence the behavior of other ants that come along after them.  Using this idea a team can make a problem solving graph where participants can leave their ideas (their signals) in a structured way for others to build upon.

Brainswarming Graph



Image from Harvard Business Review video below

So here's how Brainstorming is done. The problem solving graph (Brainswarming graph) places a single goal or problem to be solved at the top.  And then a few known available resources are placed along the bottom. Resources are those things available to the business that may be used to solve the problem at the top of the Brainswarming graph. 

Then, as participants see fit, they break the main goal or problem into various sub-goals or actions that can be taken to achieve the goal. This can be done on a white board or by placing Post-It notes on the wall below the main goal/problem being solved. Similarly, participants add more resources along the bottom as they are discovered.  Participants use lines to connect resources to the various actions that they support. Where resources connect with sub-goals and actions in the middle of the graph, potential solutions begin to emerge.

Studies show that Brainswarming produced up to 115 ideas in 15 mins versus Brainstorming which comparatively produced only 100 ideas in 60 mins. Switching from talking, to writing on a structured Brainswarming graph improves the overall group's effectiveness.

Here is a video where Tony McCaffrey describes his process in more detail.

Video: What is Brainswarming

Chris Adams
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Do your homework prior to the business analysis interview!

Having an idea of the type of questions you might be asked during a business analyst interview will not only give you confidence but it will also help you to formulate your thoughts and to be better prepared to answer the interview questions you might get during the interview for a business analyst position.  Of course, just memorizing a list of business analyst interview questions will not make you a great business analyst but it might just help you get that next job.



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