May 4, 2012

PM0010 [Introduction to Project Management] Set2 Q2

Q 2. Write short notes on the following idea generation technique: 
a. Mind mapping 
b. Delphi technique 
c. Brainstorming 
d. Nominal Group technique

Ans:
a. Mind mapping 
Another way to look at the human levels of thinking is the mind mapping concept. Mind mapping exercise is aimed at increasing mental energy to utilise creative thinking skills, enabling the mind to track out ideas which normally lie in obscurity on the edge of thinking. 

Following example is taken from the software Buzans iMind Map which was chosen for the brainstorming session aimed at planning for the future of young and developing minds. The software replicates the organic shape, form and use of colours and images to convey a thought or idea – a graphic technique for stimulating creativity and unleashing the truth, often untapped potential of the mind. This was used in June 2008 at Petra, Jordan, where 30 Nobel Prize winners (scientists, entrepreneurs, academics, and humanitarians) participated in the conference focused on the theme „Reaching for New Economic, Scientific and Educational horizons. Two of the many conclusions of the brainstorming session were - elimination of child poverty worldwide is essential to move forward with educational development; new and innovative learning tools are the foundation for a positive future for the next generation. 

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.
The elements of a given mind map are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts, and are classified into groupings, branches, or areas, with the goal of representing semantic or other connections between portions of information. Mind maps may also aid recall of existing memories.

By presenting ideas in a radial, graphical, non-linear manner, mind maps encourage a brainstorming approach to planning and organizational tasks. Though the branches of a mindmap represent hierarchical tree structures, their radial arrangement disrupts the prioritizing of concepts typically associated with hierarchies presented with more linear visual cues. This orientation towards brainstorming encourages users to enumerate and connect concepts without a tendency to begin within a particular conceptual framework.

The mind map can be contrasted with the similar idea of concept mapping. The former is based on radial hierarchies and tree structures denoting relationships with a central governing concept, whereas concept maps are based on connections between concepts in more diverse patterns.


b. Delphi technique 
This is a systematic, interactive, forecasting method that relies on a panel whose members are carefully selected independent experts. It is based on the principle that forecasts from an unstructured group of individuals are comparatively inaccurate than forecasts from a structure group of experts. The experts answer prepared questionnaires in two or more rounds. After each round, a facilitator provides an overall summary of the experts forecasts from the previous round as well as the reasons they provided for their judgments. The participants revise their earlier answers by knowing the responses of other members of the group. The process stops after a predetermined stop-criterion like number of rounds or achievement of consensus. Usually, participants maintain secrecy even after completion of the final report. The facilitator, who is the coordinator of the Delphi method, sends out the questionnaire, collects and analyses responses, and identifies common and conflicting viewpoints.

The Delphi Technique was originally conceived as a way to obtain the opinion of experts without necessarily bringing them together face to face.  In recent times, however, it has taken on an all new meaning and purpose.  In Educating for the New World Order by B. Eakman, the reader finds reference upon reference for the need to preserve the illusion that there is "…lay, or community, participation (in the decision-making process), while lay citizens were, in fact, being squeezed out."  The Delphi Technique is the method being used to squeeze citizens out of the process, effecting a left-wing take over of the schools.

A specialized use of this technique was developed for teachers, the "Alinsky Method" (ibid, p.123).  The setting or group is, however, immaterial; the point is that people in groups tend to share a certain knowledge base and display certain identifiable characteristics (known as group dynamics).  This allows for a special application of a basic technique. 

The change agent or facilitator goes through the motions of acting as an organizer, getting each person in the target group to elicit expression of their concerns about a program, project, or policy in question.  The facilitator listens attentively, forms "task forces," "urges everyone to make lists," and so on.  While s/he is doing this, the facilitator learns something about each member of the target group.  S/He identifies the "leaders," the "loud mouths," as well as those who frequently turn sides during the argument — the "weak or noncommittal".

Suddenly, the amiable facilitator becomes "devil's advocate."  S/He dons his professional agitator hat.  Using the "divide and conquer" technique, s/he manipulates one group opinion against the other.  This is accomplished by manipulating those who are out of step to appear "ridiculous, unknowledgeable, inarticulate, or dogmatic."  S/He wants certain members of the group to become angry, thereby forcing tensions to accelerate.  The facilitator is well trained in psychological manipulation.  S/He is able to predict the reactions of each group member.  Individuals in opposition to the policy or program will be shut out of the group.

The method works.  It is very effective with parents, teachers, school children, and any community group.  The "targets" rarely, if ever, know that they are being manipulated.  Or, if they suspect this is happening, do not know how to end the process.

The desired result is for group polarization, and for the facilitator to become accepted as a member of the group and group process.  S/He will then throw the desired idea on the table and ask for opinions during discussion.  Very soon his/her associates from the divided group begin to adopt the idea as if it were their own, and pressure the entire group to accept the proposition.

This technique is a very unethical method of achieving consensus on a controversial topic in group settings.  It requires well-trained professionals who deliberately escalate tension among group members, pitting one faction against the other, so as to make one viewpoint appear ridiculous so the other becomes "sensible" whether such is warranted or not.

c. Brainstorming
This method aims to give people freedom of mind and action to create and reveal new ideas. All spontaneous ideas from a group are gathered to find a solution for a specific problem. The rules followed during brainstorming are as follows: 
  1. No criticism of ideas 
  2. Go for large quantity of ideas 
  3. Build on each others ideas 
  4. Encourage wild ideas 


Brainstorming consists of a facilitator who composes the brainstorming panel and an idea collector to record the suggested ideas. Sometimes the facilitator is also the idea collector. Some of the leading questions that a facilitator asks during the session are „Can we combine these ideas? and „How about looking from another perspective? The idea collector also numbers each idea for future reference. When a participant exhausts all ideas, the creativity and experience of another participant is brought out. This often makes group brainstorming sessions enjoyable experiences. This also facilitates in bringing team members together. Individual brainstorming is effective in generating many ideas, but not at developing the ideas. 

Brainstorming is used to generate ideas, for others to evaluate and select. The strategy is more effective when the brainstorming group evaluates and selects a solution to the problem proposed. In either case, the organisation offers incentives so that participants maintain their brainstorming efforts. 

Brainstorming is a lateral thinking process. It is employed particularly when new ways of thinking are called for and when there is a need to break out of old established patterns of thinking. Some instances where brainstorming is used are when there is a need to look at new opportunities, when there is a need to improve the service offered, or when existing approaches are just not giving the right results. 

Brainstorming is a process for developing creative solutions to problems. Alex Faickney Osborn, an advertising manager, popularized the method in 1953 in his book, Applied Imagination. Ten years later, he proposed that teams could double their creative output with brainstorming (Osborn, 1963).

Brainstorming works by focusing on a problem, and then deliberately coming up with as many solutions as possible and by pushing the ideas as far as possible. One of the reasons it is so effective is that the brainstormers not only come up with new ideas in a session, but also spark off from associations with other people's ideas by developing and refining them. 

While some research has found brainstorming to be ineffective, this seems more of a problem with the research itself than with the brainstorming tool (Isaksen, 1998).

There are four basic rules in brainstorming (Osborn, 1963) intended to reduce social inhibitions among team members, stimulate idea generation, and increase overall creativity:
  • No criticism: Criticism of ideas are withheld during the brainstorming session as the purpose is on generating varied and unusual ideals and extending or adding to these ideas. Criticism is reserved for the evaluation stage of the the process. This allows the members to feel comfortable with the idea of generating unusual ideas.
  • Welcome unusual ideas: Unusual ideas are welcomed as it is normally easier to "tame down" than to "tame up" as new ways of thinking and looking at the world may provide better solutions.
  • Quantity Wanted: The greater the number of ideas generated, the greater the chance of producing a radical and effective solution.
  • Combine and improve ideas: Not only are a variety of ideals wanted, but also ways to combine ideas in order to make them better.

d. Nominal Group Technique 
This is a type of brainstorming. This technique encourages all participants to have an equal say in the session. Participants are asked to write their ideas anonymously. The moderator collects the ideas and each idea is voted on by the group. The process of voting can be simply by show of hands. The top ranked ideas are sent back to the group or subgroups for further brainstorming. Each subgroup comes back to the whole group for ranking the listed ideas. Sometimes the group revaluates the ideas that were previously dropped. This method requires a trained facilitator. 

The nominal group technique is an excellent tool that enables everyone to participate in process development. Decision making and problem solving in groups is absolutely empowering, however sometimes shouters and dominants may take over the process. 

The technique ensures that even the shy and intimidated has an equal impact in the process outcome and it can be used not just for consensus decision making and problem solving but also for priority settings, strategy building,  etc.  


Here's The Nominal Group Technique in four steps: 
Step 1: Silent Idea Generation 
This first step is designed to allow participants time to generate ideas and/or possible solutions to a given problem. Participants are given worksheets with the problem statement printed at the top and are asked to write their own ideas. They are discouraged from discussing with their peers. It is an individual exercise that stimulates serious thinking, creativity and objectivity. 

Step 2: Round-Robin Reporting of Ideas 
In this second step participants share their ideas with the group. All participants’ ideas are listed on a flipchart, using their exact words. Each idea is labeled with a letter of the alphabet. This labeling makes the ranking of solutions easier in the last step. The purpose of “round-robin reporting” is to encourage everyone to present ideas, particularly for intimidated , shyer participants who may feel overwhelmed by the most dominant participants. 

Step 3: Discussion for clarification
This step provides an opportunity for open discussion and clarification of all the generated ideas Participants elaborate ideas, clarify meaning of words and phrases, which appear, on the worksheets. 

Step 4: The ranking of problem solutions 
The purpose of this final phase of the nominal group technique is to combine the ideas and opinions of individual members to determine the relative importance of the problems or solutions that have been identified. 
During this step each group member records five items of highest priority from those listed on the flipchart. They write one phrase and the identifying letter of the alphabet on each card. 

Then group members are asked to identify the items of highest importance and rank it as 5, the next highest importance as 4, and so on. 

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