Capture techniques - Step 3 – Brainstorm

7 Steps to Better Writing - Charles Maxwell 2020

Capture techniques
Step 3 – Brainstorm

Make notetaking as simple and easy as possible.

When working alone, start with a clean computer screen, whiteboard, or sheet of paper. As ideas flow, immediately seize them and summarize them. Write just enough to grasp each thought. Abbreviate.

When working as a group, be fully transparent to the participants. Use a method where everyone can take in what is happening.


The simplest approach to record a brainstorming session is to make a list of the ideas. Jot down, in a few words, each idea as it pops into your mind or as a participant speaks it.

Note cards

Another approach to notetaking while brainstorming is to place ideas on note cards, Post-it notes, or scraps of paper. This technique works equally well for small or large groups. It has the advantage of allowing participants to write down their own ideas. Small groups can place their notes on a large sheet of paper, tabletop, easel, or whiteboard, while larger groups can place their notes on meeting room walls or on multiple easel pads.

Mind maps

Another approach is mind-mapping. Mind-mapping is the creative arrangement of key words on a writing surface. You can use software designed specifically for mind-mapping (discussed below) or write on paper, a dry-erase board, or a chalkboard.

When drawing a mind map by hand, a person working alone or the person serving as scribe for a group places the major idea (theme) in the center of the writing space and then adds key words or short phrases around the theme to depict related ideas. When relationships emerge, the scribe adds lines to connect the associated concepts.

The mapmaker adds words and lines rapidly. He or she arranges them arbitrarily if they occur randomly or places them logically if they are related.

When mind-mapping, do not get hung up organizing the ideas. Rather, capture as many thoughts as practical and with as little effort as possible.

You can find videos and further information on mind-mapping at:

Electronic notetaking is essential if your team is located in different offices and must communicate by phone or other electronic means. Electronic notetaking also can be handy if later you will share the results with other people.

Many mind-mapping applications enable dispersed groups to jointly construct mind maps and to immediately see their maps grow as participants collaborate. Some of the popular programs for mind-mapping are:

· Ayoa by OpenGenius

· MindManager by Mindjet

· MindMapper by SimTech

· MindView by MatchWare

· Visio by Microsoft

These are just a few of the many products. Although less efficient, collaborators can use drawing, drafting, or presentation software. Further resources on mind-mapping include:

· Wikipedia list of mind-mapping software,

· list of the more than 240 currently operating software products for mind-mapping,

So, the choices for mind-mapping abound.

Ishikawa diagrams

Sometimes a bit of structure helps brainstorming. One of the best approaches is the fishbone diagram technique. Kaoru Ishikawa pioneered this method at the Kawasaki shipyards during the 1960s to control quality. He applied cause-and-effect diagrams, which look like fish skeletons, to categorize the causes contributing to problems.

Ishikawa Diagram

Ishikawa used a backbone to represent a major problem, and then added rib bones to represent less important aspects of the problem.

Major categories typically include:

· People

· Machines

· Materials

· Methods (policies, procedures, rules)

· Measures (measurements)

· Environ (location, condition)

An Ishikawa diagram provides a framework for collecting subordinate ideas underneath a primary idea. The categories help stimulate a more complete exploration of possible causes. It is easy for a single person or group to explore each category and broaden their understanding of a topic.

This structured approach generally elicits more ideas. In addition, the technique keeps the ideas organized.