By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

1. Identify and describe the use of brainstorming as a technology assessment technique.


Brainstorming refers to a technique to generate creative ideas. This may be done as an individual or in a group setting. Brainstorming "sessions" are most effective where the participants "defer judgment" about whether their responses to a problem statement are correct or good. It is often suggested that participants aim for quantity of ideas, and off-the-wall, crazy sounding ideas (i.e., lateral thinking) are encouraged.

Brainstorming is useful in original problem definition, and in generating a long list of possible impacts. However, because it is based on deferring judgment, brainstorming is clearly not an assessment technique - it is just a tool that can play a critical part of a large assessment project.

A typical topic for brainstorming in a technology assessment is :

Who might be impacted by electrical vehicle legislation?
Typical answers may include:
  • consumers
  • automobile manufacturers
  • residents of oil-producing states
In an actual brainstorming session, the list of answers may number in the hundreds.

While brainstorming is quick and creative, it is not exhaustive, not critical, and it is limited to the ideas of the brainstormers. 

There are many web sites that deal with brainstorming, although most of these look at it as a whimsical activity for youngsters. A web search for brainstorming will easily turn up these sites, such as (optional):

I regularly teach brainstorming to teachers. A PowerPoint presentation on brainstorming and other techniques that is meant to accompany a live presentation is available online for those who can view it at (optional):

Accompanying this presentation are two web sites. The first is a description of five different brainstorming structures teachers might use (optional):
Five Brainstorming Structures

But brainstorming is just one type of ideation (i.e., idea-generation) technique. Too often we rely solely on brainstorming when other methods could provide greater structure to promote ideation, or when the answer we are looking for is in a journal in a library waiting for us to find it. The web page that corresponds to the second half of the PowerPoint presentation looks at over a dozen alternative ideation techniques (optional):
Ideation: It's More Than Just Brainstorming

Typical Guidelines

During brainstorming session, it might help to use guidelines that include the following:

  • Defer judgment; do not use "killer phrases" that inhibit creativity.
  • Record responses.
  • Aim for variety and quantity of responses.

Inherent Weakness

Brainstorming is too often used as a "research technique." It is not. It is an idea-generation technique, limited to what the participants generate. Thus, it can be useful in creating a partial list of options; additional options would likely be added from the literature and elsewhere.

All information is subject to change without notification.
© Jim Flowers
Department of Technology, Ball State University