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Brainstorming 101

by Vivian Scott
January 2011

From Vivian Scott's Conflicts Of InterestBlog

Vivian Scott
Are you getting into a big fight trying to solve a problem? Brainstorm!

Wait. Not sure how to brainstorm without getting into a big fight? Try these tips:

1) Clearly identify the problem. Be specific. Stating that you need to do something about the kids is vague. Stating that you need to ensure the kids adhere to their curfew is specific.

2) Brainstorm only one problem at a time, please.

3) Agree to attack the problem not the person. Get out of the blame game and into solving the issue at hand. Add “how to avoid this in the future” to the next brainstorming session if you need to, but for now stick with the solving what’s in front of you.

4) Ignore the saying that no idea is a bad idea. Good ideas become bad ideas when they don’t have anything to do with reaching the goal. If you’re trying to find ways to keep customer service phone calls under five minutes and your idea is about what to serve for lunch at the next team meeting, you’ve derailed the process. That’s a bad idea.

5) Be okay with not coming up with the best solution in the first round. I like to have two sessions. One to get going with initial ideas and then another in the next day or so. Keeping the time between meetings to a minimum ensures that the topic is still on everyone’s mind but they’ve had time to step away, sleep on it, and reconvene with clearer thinking.

6) Quickly (and I do mean quickly) discuss the pros and cons of each suggestion after you’ve created a list (not after each idea is suggested).

7) Choose an idea with the agreement that everyone will get behind it. Do everything you can to make the idea work even if—and especially when—it wasn’t your idea.


Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies.  She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success.  Through creative solutions to common conflicts she was able to bring various entities together, both internally and externally, for the betterment of projects and a productive working environment.     

Prior to retiring from Microsoft in 1999 she developed the “America at Work” video series, a six-part program featuring small businesses employing technology in attention-grabbing ways.  “America at Work” aired on the USA Network and received the Silver Screen Award from the International Film and Video Festival for outstanding creativity.   Using discerning negotiation, mediation, and problem-solving skills, she successfully worked with others to co-create “How-to Guides”, “Seminar in a Box”, and even one of the first on-line Guerrilla Marketing books.   

Since her retirement, Ms. Scott has gone on to earn a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Washington.  She completed an extensive practicum with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties where she has mediated numerous cases, helping parties resolve conflict in workplace, family, and other disputes.  Her private mediation practice has handled cases ranging from assisting business partners in ending their relationship to creating a new working environment within a law firm.  Ms. Scott is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and spends a majority of her time advocating embracing peace in a volatile world.   

Her book, Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, can be found in bookstores, on,, or any number of on-line bookseller sites.    

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