Brainstorming is a popular way for generating ideas. Organizations and groups use the technique to produce creative alternatives. When conducted properly, participants particularly enjoy the activity and actively contribute. The process moves rapidly and is ideal for gathering a large number of ideas in a short time.

In recent years, however, many experts have criticized the process and pointed out shortcomings.

Many experts and studies also suggest that brainstorming helps with convergent thinking but is not particularly useful for obtaining diverse ideas. However, these “deficiencies” can be overcome by effective leadership with a structured brainstorming process framework.

Brainstorming still holds immense possibilities despite several studies that point out the shortcomings of this process. It is, without a doubt, an extremely powerful Six Sigma tool. However, some experts believe that the process does not have a measurable impact on the creative output generated.

Brainstorming and Six Sigma

Brainstorming has an important role in Six Sigma methodology. It is particularly useful in the Define phase and when using tools such as failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA).

In fact, experts consider brainstorming a powerful Six Sigma tool. The technique helps to produce and gather a list of potential factors that have a bearing on the project. It is not about judging ideas; the concept is about gathering as many ideas as possible and identifying ways to solve the problems at hand.

Using Brainstorming in the Methodology

Brainstorming lends itself to an easy application in the Define, Analyze, and Improve phases of the Six Sigma methodology. Whenever you need the participation of the whole team, desire new creative ideas to solve challenging problems, or need a broad range of flexible options to choose from, the technique is applicable.

It particularly gels well with finding the root causes of the issues. The tool helps chart all inputs and outputs as well as in the creation of a project charter. It can also help shape the process map and suggests ways to measure critical data.

The activity fits in well in the Improve phase of the DMAIC cycle when participants deliberate over the possible solutions as well as the varied scenarios these solutions can produce.

How to Conduct Brainstorming

The brainstorming process involves several steps. Group sizes play a significant role in this method and smaller groups can often defy the very purpose of the activity since they fail to generate enough ideas. Make sure you have at least two to three people on the low side.  Create large groups and the other problem creeps in wherein some people will be left out of the discussions. The ideal group size does not exceed 10.

Use the services of an experienced facilitator to ensure a seamless idea session. This will guarantee the active involvement of every participant, which is so critical for a successful outcome. It is also imperative to document all ideas suggested during a session to ensure none of the ideas are left out. Further, the evaluation of ideas post-session is also necessary for drawing the inferences and key takeaways.


When properly conducted, the method is easily applied and is useful in several phases of the DMAIC cycle. Brainstorming helps develop out of the box ideas that can significantly contribute to the success of any Lean Six Sigma project. It is now a generic term for the practice of developing new thoughts and ideas.

Whenever your business needs to come up with new ideas to solve challenging problems, brainstorming sessions are the easiest ways to come up with innovative solutions.

Ensuring the right group size (which is three to 10 people) is of critical importance. The use of a facilitator is highly recommended for proper session conduction and to ensure that the discussions stay on track.