Brainstorming is very useful to get a set of opinions on different issues from a diverse group. I have tried out this format for getting ideas to bubble up from individuals and groups:
- Identity 4-5 key questions that needs to be discussed
- Create a questionnaire which is then given to each individual to answer in about 10 minutes
- Split people up into groups of 6-7 people at a roundtable. Depending on the number of people, work out the number of groups that will be there (call it N). Go around the room asking each person to sequentially say 1,2,3…N. Group all the people with the same number together. This is important to mix people up.
- Ask the group to discuss each of the questions based on the individual responses and come up with a common (consensus) answer to each of the questions. This helps draw out the “wisdom of crowds.”
- One person from each group presents to the wider audience.
- Collect both the individual answers and the group answers.
- After this, there can be an open-house (time permitting).
This process helps distill out both individual thinking and the collective view for each of the issues. It also ensures that each person gets an opportunity to talk (at the group-level). A structured discussion is necessary because a free-for-all format can degenerate into chaos very quickly.