Round-Robin Brainstorming

Round-Robin brainstorming technique - ToolsHero

This article describes the Round-Robin Brainstorming method in a practical way. After reading you will understand the definition, meaning and basics of this powerful creativity tool.

What is Round-Robin Brainstorming

Round-Robin is a variation of classic brainstorming. When Round-Robin Brainstorming is used, meetings become more organised, and that ensures that each participant is able to introduce his ideas.

Traditional Brainstorming is mostly known for its openness and freedom. Everyone involved participates. The Round-Robin method is structured in creativity. It is about letting creative lateral ideas come to the surface and stimulating each other in creative solutions. Classic Brainstorming is characterised by a lot of talking and people speaking at the same time. As a result, some people get less chance to speak and the discussion is limited to the more dominant individuals and their ideas. To counter this, the Round-Robin method is a variant of Brainstorming, giving everyone a chance to contribute to the discussion.

Involved

Everyone is involved in Round-Robin Brainstorming. During regular Brainstorming, it is likely that other people’s potential and good ideas are missed because the tone for the entire meeting is set by more self-confident individuals. Round-Robin Brainstorming is about getting everyone involved. Every team member gets the opportunity to generate ideas, without being influenced by other people. The ideas of others are used by every team member to generate more ideas, without being influenced by the assertiveness or dominance of other team members. This gives every team member an equal chance to introduce and present ideas, regardless of whether someone is shy or has a modest attitude.

Conditions

There are a number of conditions for a good Round-Robbin sessions. Silence is very important. Nobody should be distracted by other people talking. That allows the participants to think and focus. There also has to be a clear problem to Brainstorm about in advance. And it is also good to set limits on how much time people get to think. five-minute sessions per round for instance. That way, it is clear for everyone involved that they have to write something down within this allotted time.

The size of the group is also an important factor for the success of the Round-Robin method. The larger the group, the longer the session and the bigger the number of ideas. Generally, it is recommended not to hold a meeting like this with more than 15 people.

How does Round-Robin Brainstorming work?

Round-Robin Brainstorming is very simple and can be carried out using the steps described below:

Step 1

This is the start. A team is gathered around a table by a facilitator. Each of the team members gets a sheet of paper or index card, on which they can individually write down their ideas.

Step 2

Before it starts, there has to be a clear problem definition to which everyone can react. It is a good idea for the facilitator to write down this problem definition on a whiteboard or flip chart, making it clear to everyone. The facilitator’s task is to specifically indicate what has to be solved. If the team members have questions, the facilitator will answer them, but it is his responsibility to discourage further discussion.

Step 3

The goal in this step is to let each individual team member think creatively, without being influenced by others. Each team member will quietly think and write down is idea and/or solution on the paper or index card. By setting a time limit, the thinking process will not go on unnecessarily long.

Step 4

When everyone has written down their idea, the cards are passed to the person next to them. Everyone will review their neighbour’s idea, and add additional ideas to it. That stimulates everyone to engage with the creativity of someone else.

Step 5

Every team member has used their neighbour’s idea to inspire different, new ideas. Next, these index cards are passed on again as well. This circular exchange of ideas continues as long as necessary to get to a decent number of ideas. Just as during regular Brainstorming, it is also about quantity and not yet about quality. When the time is up, the facilitator will collect all ideas.

Step 6

The facilitator collects all ideas, writes them down on the white board or flip chart and discusses them with the group. The same or similar ideas are grouped together. Next, the group will make joint choices and assess the ideas’ feasibility. By the way, the facilitator will also hold on to the ideas that do not make it, because sometimes they can come in handy at a later time.

Disadvantages

The Round-Robin method also has – besides the major advantage that everyone is stimulated to participate – a few disadvantages. Initially, this is not anonymous method and all team members are in the same room. This can lead to people being reluctant. When a team member sees somebody in the room they know will not be accepting of his idea, it is hard to write that idea down anyway. Also, every team member only gets the chance to react to one idea by another person at a time. By going around the entire table, that problem can be prevented. Moreover, it is a good idea to make the Round-Robin Brainstorming anonymous. This can be done by collecting the ideas in every stage, shuffling them and redistributing them, rather than having group members pass their card on to the person next to them.

Now it’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is Round-Robin Brainstorming applicable in your daily work? What is your experience with Round-Robin Brainstorming and other Brainstorming techniques? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more additions?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Beasley, M. S., & Jenkins, J. G. (2003). A primer for brainstorming fraud risks. Journal of Accountancy, 196(6), 32.
  2. Bellovary, J. L., & Johnstone, K. M. (2007). Descriptive evidence from audit practice on SAS No. 99 brainstorming activities. Current Issues in Auditing, 1(1), A1-A11.
  3. Rawlinson, J. G. (2017). Creative thinking and brainstorming. Routledge.

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