Thought Showers: Group Problem Solving

4 Min Read
Thought Showers: Group Problem Solving

You’ve probably encountered the term brainstorming, but have you heard about a group problem-solving solution known as “thought showers”?

Thought showers are about using the power of a group of people to solve problems. Bouncing ideas and thoughts around a room to come up with a solution to a problem.

What is a thought shower?

What does thought-shower mean? It is a method of group problem-solving.

Each person contributes ideas, solutions, thoughts spontaneously to the problem being discussed. Opening the discussion to potential ideas and directions that others may not have thoughts about as group problem solving can trigger new solutions.

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Thought Showers vs brainstorming?

What is the meaning of brainstorming? Problem solving technique encouraging people to come up with ideas and thoughts on potential solutions however crazy it may sound.

They are actually the same. a way to problem solve but with two different names and the reason behind that is the removal of any offence that the term brainstorming might cause.

Thought showers is a term created in Northern Island by a guy by the name of Henry McDonald. At the time, he worked as the Ireland editor of the popular newspaper, The Observer. He felt that the commonly used term “brainstorming” could be considered offensive to anyone suffering from a brain disorder. A new name was required that still indicated the core of the term, the creative generation of ideas. “Thought showers” was considered far less offensive.

The word ‘brainstorm’ was not banned from UK

What is the Purpose of a Thought Showers?

The ultimate goal of thought showers is to expand the way people think and, at the same time, generate a range of ideas. If offers a great way for continuous improvement. It is an excellent tool for supporting designing or problem-solving. It’s also a perfect way to break the ice.

There are a few techniques that can be used with thought showers.

Nominal Group Technique

With this technique, members of a group come together to pool their ideas and opinions. It is meant to be done independently and systematically. The following takes place during this type of thought shower session.
– Members come together as a team or group and write down any ideas they have regarding a problem. It’s also possible for this step to be done independently.
– Team members are each given the opportunity to present their idea to the group. The ideas are recorded, often on a flip chart.
-Discussion and evaluation of each idea take place.
-Each member then has the opportunity to rank the ideas, and the most popular one is adopted.

Delphi Technique

This technique is very similar to the one above, with one difference. The physical presence of team members is not required. This difference makes it an ideal thought shower technique for teams who work remotely. The steps are as follows:
-Team members are asked to come up with a potential solution, usually by way of a questionnaire.
-The questionnaire is completed independently and anonymously.
-The results of the questionnaire are centrally compiled, and the team members are notified of the results.
-Team members are given another opportunity to provide a solution until an agreement is reached,

Stepladder Technique

This method begins with two people who are working to find a solution to a problem. A discussion takes place. They talk about their ideas and eventually agree on a solution. While this is taking place, a third person is given the same problem and asked to develop a solution. Their idea is presented to the couple who have already agreed on a solution. Together they discuss, revisit, and re-evaluate the solution.

More people are added to the process, with the ultimate goal being a consensus.

How to do a Thought Shower?

How to carry out thought showers? Gather the people who are involved in the problem or process that needs to be discussed in one place and ask for their ideas.

For a thought shower to be useful, it requires a facilitator and a suitable space where the activity can take place. This is to be an office space or boardroom but now with the changing ways, people work it can be a virtual team event using zoom, Microsoft teams or google meet to name a few. Team members who work from home or are based in other parts of the World can now be part of these processes.

The facilitator guides the session, encourages people to take part, and writes down the generated ideas.

Outline Problem: Make sure people know and understand what problem needs to be resolved. 

This can be done in two different ways:

Advanced Notice: Ahead of the thought shower give people the brief of what problem needs to be solved. This will give some people thinking time, time to mull it over in their heads.
Spontaneous: No advanced information about the discussion to allow for more crazy spontaneous thoughts to be shared. With advanced notice, people can talk themselves out of their ideas or find more faults with the ideas but these thoughts might not be the solution but may trigger the idea that solves the problem.

Set our clear ground rules for the thought showers:

The focus should be on quantity: A good thought shower will generate many ideas; the more, the better. The thinking behind this is that quantity naturally breeds quality. The more ideas there are, the bigger the chance of an effective solution.

Criticism is not allowed: People taking part should be free to speak their minds. There should be no judgement from others as this can inhibit lateral thinking and could even prevent some team members from participating.

Unusual ideas welcomed: All assumptions should be suspended, and new perspectives welcomed.

Tips to on thought showers. Restrict the time for the event so people don’t become mentally exhausted. Discourage technology and use of any sort of PowerPoint presentation etc but just allow the mind to think. If a large group consider breaking into smaller groups which allows more people to put their ideas forward and be heard. Then bring back those ideas to the whole group for discussion.

Good thought showers take practice and skill if you want to avoid it becoming a waste of time with little added value. Understanding your team and how they work is so important.

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