The Power of Brainstorming

This is a classic. A university was having trouble with seagulls dropping their bowel and urine all over the campus. A business class decided to take this on as a class project in order to get rid of the seagulls. First phase is just having a lot of fun throwing out ideas. No matter how stupid the ideas are, they are written down. During the first phase they came up with a lot of ideas some of which were really stupid. For example they knew that birds are afraid of snakes so they proposed putting snakes all over the campus. They also knew that the seagulls were frightened by loud noises so they proposed putting loudspeakers all over the campus with loud music being played. They could poison seagulls. These are just three of the suggestions that they came up with in phase one. In phase one criticisms are not allowed. Laughing about an idea is encouraged but not laughing at the person who came up with the idea.

In phase two, ideas can be criticized but the main purpose is not spending a lot of time on each idea. It also narrows down the number of ideas that can be discussed in phase 2 and phase 3. So a little discussion is okay but not a lot. If I remember correctly the idea of the snakes all over the campus was discussed where the snakes could be put in the cages around the campus. The idea of the noise from loudspeakers came down to putting speakers aimed away from the classrooms. Many of the students were strongly opposed to poisoning the seagulls. Many of the other ideas were eliminated at that point. Other ideas were improved on but since a lot of time was not allocated to each idea much of it left to phase 3.

Phase 3 was when they discussed each idea that was left in detail. They finally got it down to the snakes and the loudspeakers. After much analysis they realize that the loudspeakers just would not work no matter how they were aimed. It would disturb the classes way too much to have an effective classroom situation. The snakes would not work because they would be placed in a plastic container and the heat would be too much so the snakes would die. Also it would be very cruel to leave the snakes in a small cage. Someone came up with the idea that seagulls were not that smart so they could use rubber snakes and they would be nailed onto the ledges, in the trees, on the benches, and anywhere else where the birds could see the rubber snakes.

The results were put into effect and it worked. The seagulls left the college campus and for a small investment with those rubber snakes they saved the University a lot of money cleaning up the campus. It also kept students from being splattered with bird excrement.

Business schools throughout the United States and probably other countries use this story in their classrooms. They probably also take on problems on campus or in the city were brainstorming can solve the problem. I could tell you that in many cases I have used the technique and have solve problems. It really works in most cases.

I love this brainstorming story that is taught in many universities because one, is a true story; two, it teaches a good brainstorming technique; and third, it shows the humane concern of wanting to save the seagulls and even the snakes. It shows that people can be concerned about the welfare of animals and at the same time solve a problem without killing any animals 

Copyrighted 2017 by David A Weseloh, Ph.D.

Insert date: 2017-07-15 Last update: 2017-07-17

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