Brainstorming or bust

In this case….bust! A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a panel to discuss information and digital literacy and share some examples of resources we are developing in the Office of Learning Technology. In preparation for the panel, my colleague Trish Rossel and I tried to collaborate on a Prezi – which left us both feeling a little digitally illiterate – since we were somehow inadvertently overwriting each other. Finally the tool crashed on Trish and we lost the shared presentation. Here’s what I managed to save of my bit (if you are interested).

We recovered what we could and all was OK. Except, we really didn’t know what the others would be talking about and weren’t sure how we could engage participants in a relattively short time frame (1 hour – 4 panelists). The morning of the presentation, I came up with the idea (in the shower – where- in my experience many great ideas hatch) to do a 1 minute – 1 word brain storming activity with the audience between the different panelists (while they were switching out their presentation stuff and setting up). The concept was simple (or so I thought) –  it went like this:

  • have each panelist identify a question that the audience could brainstorm on in small groups in a 1-2 minute time frame.
  • explain the concept to the audience before the presentation and have each table (small group) identify a recorder (so that we could share ideas following the presentation).
  • pose the question after each speaker and have the audience limit themselves to one-word associations with the question.

The goal was to debrief at the end and see if any patterns emerged from the words that were brainstormed in response to each question.

Here’s what happened:

  • people didn’t brainstorm
  • no one wanted to respond to the question with just one word
  • people looked frustrated
  • nothing was recorded or debriefed.

Not sure what to make of this yet – except that the exercise was a bust. Maybe people don’t like brainstorming? Or maybe a simple word association would have made it easier to let go of the need to be “accurate”?


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