Rules of ergo-engagement: How to brainstorm

Many of you are familiar with the rules of brainstorming, although I confess that we’ve been using these for so long that I don’t remember where they originated:

  • There are no wrong answers
  • The more the merrier
  • The wilder the better
  • Hitch-hiking is welcome

If you’ve never seen these, here is a primer, with particular reference to how we use them in ergonomics:

There are no wrong answers.

Before a brainstorming session begins, we clearly explain the problem that we’re trying to solve, and we outline project constraints such as the post that is holding up the roof, or the $20000 project cap. But during the brainstorming activity, no ideas are shut down. We’ve learned that even the slightest criticism can shut down a participant for 10 minutes, and muffle the energy of the group. Record every single idea, even if you think it could never work!

The more the merrier.

We want LOTS of ideas, and at this stage, quantity is more important than quality. When you’ve identified a hazard that people have been walking by for years, generating new ideas can be a lot like peeling off old paint….it’s hard to get started. We want people to think, offer up ideas, and not be too analytical at this stage. Once you get rolling, more will come.

The wilder the better.

Creative energy invariably leads to ideas that are impractical or exorbitantly pricy. But these ideas are important because they may contain the seed of a perfect solution. Encourage participants to get out of that box! There will be time to prioritize later.

Hitch-hiking is welcome.

In brainstorming, it’s common for ideas to build from each other…one person suggests hanging people from bungees, and before you know it you’ve designed a leaning rail to support the upper body. We don’t worry about who gets credit for ideas in brainstorming…it’s truly a group effort.

We use brainstorming in our training, with our clients, and within our team. On team meeting days, our team brainstorms solutions for client ergo projects that have stumped the client’s project team. We brainstorm content ideas for our social media feeds. For example, we generated a list of children’s nursery rhymes, stories, and movies, for our social media content about how budding 5-year-old ergonomists would view the world. (Hopefully, you’re following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked in, and you’ve seen some of these!)

Truth be told, brainstorming is one of Carrie’s favourite tasks as an ergonomist….she glows during those blissful moments between generating a beautiful idea and figuring out why it might not work. Virtually every great ergonomics intervention is created through this process. The next time you have a problem to solve, assemble a group of open-minded people, and try brainstorming. (Or call us!)

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