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Frank Pipolo
Frank Pipolo

Brainstorming: A Powerful Tool in Business Analysis

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Tired of holding those long and boring meetings with your analysts and stakeholders to encourage them to come up with new ideas and strategies for your business? It seems more of drudgery than a productive exercise when you find yourself lecturing your team for hours on end to perform and deliver within deadlines. There’s a high chance that your staff doesn’t exactly look forward to such “pep talk” meets either and probably suppress their yawns as you go on and on about developing the business, waiting to unleash them once you turn your back to them. 
If ‘boring,’ ‘drag’ and ‘dissociative’ are the adjectives you would use to describe your meetings, then there’s obviously something else you need to be doing that proves to be fun, engaging and interactive. You might want to consider giving the brainstorming technique a go to bring in a breath of fresh air at the next meet with your team.
What Is Brainstorming?
The Business Dictionary defines brainstorming as a "Process for generating creative ideas and solutions through intensive and freewheeling group discussion." With this unconventional technique, leaders can encourage their team to think out-of-the-box and come up with some radical ideas/solutions without room for shyness or intimidation. One can never have enough good ideas, hence, this technique is useful in generating several ideas which can be used (or not).
BABOK on Brainstorming
As per ‘A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge’ (BABOK), brainstorming is one of the important skills that a business analyst requires to be able to perform tasks competently. Whether it is used to identify your stakeholders or to analyze business processes, BABOK says that brainstorming can help at several stages of a project, especially when finding solutions to problems becomes tough. As per this guide - "The aim of brainstorming is to produce numerous new ideas, and to derive from them themes for further analysis" which makes brainstorming a powerful tool at almost any stage of a project.
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5 Main Benefits of Brainstorming
Diverse Ideas
There are always a couple of members in all teams who take their time in coming out of their shell or are just not used to thinking beyond the set patterns. Brainstorming is a great technique for getting the less involved or quieter members to open up their imagination, think creatively and become participative. Such situations can be avoided though. Care needs to be taken in putting together a group of diverse participants as each one can bring a unique idea to the table, depending on their background. Hence, brainstorming can bring about a broad spectrum of different ideas and expertise which other methods would probably not be able to do.  
Covers All Aspects
Since it is almost impossible for an analyst to pinpoint every single influential factor during discovery or other stages of a project, brainstorming takes some of the research pressure off the analyst’s shoulders. It also makes other stakeholders take up a degree of ownership of the project’s initiatives and activities, thereby making them accountable for its success/failure too. 
No Inhibitions
More often than not, junior employees tend to be withdrawn around their seniors and refrain from presenting their ideas, no matter how good they are, due to the fear of a backlash. This reluctance to speak up in front of seniors can be overcome through brainstorming sessions as everyone would be considered as an equal with a shared goal and common expectations, thereby eliminating the hierarchical differences among the participants. 
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Team Building
Brainstorming is be a fun and effective way of team building as it brings managers, stakeholders, analysts and other employees together on a common platform with each one of them contributing towards the same solution. The best part of this is that as they arrive at one, it makes everyone feel that they’ve contributed to it and generates a bond between the participants. It also serves as a reminder to them that they are creative people with lots of varied ideas to offer.  
No Fear of Rejection
In a brainstorming session, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ so the fear of rejection can be eliminated from the participant’s mind. Certain ideas that might come up but are found to be unsuitable can be kept aside for later consideration or for another project as it can lead to more possibilities while dealing with a problem. For business analysts, it is important to be able to work in an environment where their ideas are respected and the environment is neutral. 
To Conclude
If facilitated well, a brainstorming session can bring to fore a plethora of ideas, strategies, information and excitement in the team. For this method to work best, the facilitator needs to build a healthy and safe environment to foster creativity and eradicate scope for bullying and infighting. It is always better to prepare and plan beforehand and have a set of ground rules related to focusing on the problem, being fair and respectful of other’s opinions and building on the ideas of teammates. 
By Frank Pipolo
Frank Pipolo is a 20-year professional executive and writer for WCI Communities, a Florida lifestyle community developer and luxury homebuilder, catering to move-up, second-home and active adult homebuyers.
This entry was published on Apr 01, 2014 / Frank Pipolo. Posted in Business Analysis Planning (BABOK KA). Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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Vijay posted on Friday, May 30, 2014 10:38 AM
Good Article Frank. The thoughts on inhibitions are very true in the majority cases where employees feel shy or do not have the courage to share their thoughts in front of their seniors. Brainstorming is a good way to bring ideas out of people compared to general meetings.
Dennis posted on Monday, June 30, 2014 10:48 AM
Good post, but do you have any suggestions for techniques (outside of the wikipedia link above) that work best for you?
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