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Function-Based Brainstorming

What is Function-Based Brainstorming?

Function-Based Brainstorming is a brainstorming technique used to generate a wide range of ideas on how to achieve a function in a short period of time. Participants are asked questions based on the function. For example, a function might be "inform public" and the team will be asked to brainstorm by answering the question "how can we inform public?"


Function-Based Brainstorming Objectives:

  • Generate many alternative ideas.
  • Focus on Basic (most important) functions.
  • Generate ideas without reference to the current solution.

Function-Based Brainstorming Rules:

  • Quantity counts. The more ideas generated the better.
  • Be Positive. Do not criticize or judge ideas during the Brainstorming session.
  • Welcome Out-of-the-box ideas. Imaginative ideas can lead to new approaches.
  • Piggy-back or combine ideas. Good ideas may be combined to form a single better idea.

Facilitator Hints:

  • Have confidence in the process. Function-Based Brainstorming is a reliable and efficient approach to generating creative ideas.
  • Explain the brainstorming rules.
  • Identify the Basic/most essential functions of the project or process. Start with the need or problem the project or process is addressing.
  • Select a function to brainstorm where there are expected to be alternative ideas.
  • Contribute your own ideas if ideas are not forthcoming.
  • Brainstorming against Higher order Functions (Functions to the left side of the FAST diagram), are likely to generate creative ideas for the greatest change. Lower order Functions (Functions farther to the right of the FAST Diagram) will likely lead to less significant change.

Why is Function-Based Brainstorming important?

Using Function-based Brainstorming ensures that many ideas are generated based on the project needs or functions, rather than the currently proposed solution.

When is Function-Based Brainstorming beneficial?

Function-Based Brainstorming is a useful technique to focus the attention of a group on generating creative ideas in situations such as:

  • Projects or problems with an impasse or when stuck on a problem.
  • Where the same solution has always been used and something new is needed. For example, when an existing solution has become entrenched.
  • Generating creative approaches to stakeholder consultation.
  • When working alone and there is a need to challenge your ideas.
  • Problem solving.
  • Identifying alternatives.
  • Identifying ideas to reduce cost.
  • Generating ideas to streamline a process.

Who is involved?

All Study Team members are involved. Everyone can contribute ideas, no matter their background. Typically one person serves as the team leader or facilitator. It is useful if participants have different backgrounds and levels of experience.

What is the difference between Function-Based Brainstorming and traditional Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a group creativity technique used to generate a large number of ideas. In a traditional Brainstorming session, the facilitator may ask for ideas for to improve the design of a chair and the participants will suggest chair improvements. In a Function-Based Brainstorming session, the facilitator may ask for creative ideas based on specific functions of a chair, such as support weight. In response, participants might suggest a swing and other ways to support weight.

Information Phase Function Analysis Phase Creative Phase Evaluation Phase Development Phase Presentation Phase