Impact Analysis - Brainstorming pattern

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Use Impact Analysis to select superior solutions

Teams need a rational process to evaluate alternative solutions to select superior solutions. Encourage people to propose solutions because you never know which solution will be the stepping stone to the breakthrough solution which solves the problem without too many negative impacts.

Brainstorming participants become emotionally attached to their own solutions sometimes overlooking obvious shortcomings. This emotion clouds the ability to see the benefits of alternative solutions. At the same time other participants often fail to understand what is being proposed. Some solutions may be lost in the discussion and superior solutions may remain undiscovered. People are reluctant to point out obvious shortcomings because they donít want to offend the proposor. The challenge in problem-solving is to find the best solution without upsetting people.

Impact analysis using concurrent brainstorming provides a method to identify all alternatives and to collect both positive and negative impacts of each alternative. A formatted flipchart is created for each alternative. This recognizes all alternatives so no one feels their alternative has been excluded. Encourage each participant may contribute as many proís or conís for each alternative as they wish.  This method takes ten to twenty minutes to captures the positive and negative aspects of each solution. Everyone gets an opportunity to defend their solutions with as many proís as possible. At the same time people get a chance to identify possible negative impacts.

The impact analysis stimulates discussion and broadens the teams understanding of the problem space. Impact brainstorming shares the knowledge embedded within the group without offending anyone. It usually stimulates additional solutions.

Create an empty flipchart which captures the final superior solution. We may not know what this is at the present time. A superior solution may be discovered by blending features from several alternatives which combines the benefits and minimizes the negative impacts.

If you need to do a more thorough analysis then the proís and conís provide the basis for developing a list of selection criteria.

1. Issues, problems or risks   2. Alternative Solutions   #3. Alternative 1 #3. Alternative 2 #3. Alternative 3


4. Pro 5. Con 4. Pro 5. Con 4. Pro 5. Con



To evaluate alternatives post specially formatted flipcharts as shown above. Topics in Impact Analysis include:

  1. Select next issue to solve
  2. Brainstorm alternative solutions
  3. Create a flipchart for each of the major alternatives
  4. Brainstorm Pro's and Con's for each alternative. 

Sort the proposed solutions in order from most promising to those we can probably discard. Often someone who was emotionally attached to their solution realizes it does not come close to solving the problem. Impact analysis highlights superior alternatives without insulting the originator. This format also reduces conflict by allowing all opinions to surface.

Copyright Feb. 7, 2005 Brian Mullen, I.S.P. information systems planning corp. Last updated: March 7, 2005

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