BRAINSTORMING FOR TECHNOLOGY FORECASTING
The oldest method of forecasting is probably brainstorming. It is conducted by a group of people’ who attempt to forecast about a specific technology by collecting/contributing all the ideas spontaneously. The basis of the method is that ideas should not be evaluated at the generation stage during which many new ideas emerge. Thus, there is a separation of the idea generation and the evaluation stages. The reason for this is that new ideas can emanate even from people who do not have a thorough expertise in a given field. The major objective of brainstorming is to stimulate the generation of ideas on a given technology. It does not matter even if they are wild, highly impractical or exotic. Ideas are formed/offered spontaneously in a relatively unstructured environment. After they have been presented, they are analysed and evaluation is carried out in depth.
STEPS INVOLVED IN BRAINSTORMING
Step 1 : Identification of a person as the group leader. It is not necessary that he is chosen by his age or his position or seniority or expertise in the technology, but he must have the requisite experience of integrating or channeling the ideas to lead to a solution.
Step 2 : Identification of the problem by a group so that the multiple dimensions of the problem involved are clearly highlighted.
Step 3 : Definition and redefinition of the problem so that it is unambiguously understood by the group. Possible solutions are deliberately avoided.
Step 4 : Idea generation process is initiated. Once a number of ideas are collected, a number of triggering questions are initiated to help combine ideas or approaches.
Step 5 : The recorded ideas are reviewed, classified and streamlined into related ideas and clusters.
Step 6 : Rearranged ideas are evaluated, possibly through reverse brainstorming i.e. through a series of eliminating questions. Least favoured ideas are rejected. Preferred ones are analysed and forecasts are prepared in consultation with other functional experts.
The structure of the problem solving group is a major factor which determines the goodness of the forecast. A group, to be effective, has to have a variety of people, such as :
a) Users of technology
b) Experts, knowledgeable in technology
c) Experts, knowledgeable about market
d) Economists/financial analysts
e) Dreamers with new ideas
f) Persuaders who can help acceptance of an idea technology forecasters
Based on experience, it has been found that the session could be structured to some extent, to facilitate solution of the problem during brainstorming. This, in a way, involves first establishing a method for obtaining a variety of emergent ideas and then converging it on to the given solution.
Brainstorming has been applied to a wide range of R&D, technological and business problem solving. This method has been used for following purposes, namely:
- a) for obtaining new ideas of products/process/services/procedures
- b) for identifying new uses or market segments
- c) for overcoming bottlenecks
- d) for identifying alternative options or methods
The group can have five to ten members. If there are more than about 10 members, processing of the proposed ideas becomes difficult. In some cases outsiders are used as leaders.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
The advantage of brainstorming is that it is easy to organize and the resources needed are modest. But it requires an experienced person to conduct it. A number of sessions may be necessary since at the initial stages participants may be somewhat sceptical or hesitant. Sufficient time is needed for organizing a brainstorming exercise. Further, considerable preparation has to be made before the actual exercise begins.