How 454,000 Ideas Were Brainstormed by 8,000 People in 60-Minute Thinkathon to Set the World Brainstorming Record

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SolutionPeople's Gerald “Solutionman” Haman Reveals Four Proven Strategies for Better Brainstorming

The KnowBrainer increased the volume and variety of ideas by over 500% versus traditional brainstorming

When the government of Singapore wanted to celebrate 20 years of productivity and innovation, they hired Chicago-based Gerald “Solutionman” Haman to help them set a world brainstorming record. How did they do it? They brought together 8,000 people at the Singapore Stadium and gave Haman just 60 minutes to see if he could facilitate the audience to generate 100,000 ideas.

Solutionman received a standing ovation for leading the brainstormers to generate a record-setting 454,000 ideas in an hour. Haman called the facilitation in Singapore a “Thinkathon” and has been training people from all over the world to replicate the Thinkathon success in their own countries, companies and organization.

What happened with all the ideas from Solutionman’s Singapore Thinkathon? The ideas were shared with millions Singapore citizens and used to create one of the most innovative economies in the world.
Haman was returning from the Singapore Thinkathon to celebrate with people from the Guinness World Record organization on September 11, 2001. Unfortunately, Haman was on a Singapore Airlines flight that was diverted out of US Airspace because of the World Trade Center tragedy in New York. His flight landed in Toronto, and he booked the last available rental car and drove home to Chicago.

Solutionman had plenty of time to think during his 18-hour drive back home to Chicago. “I listened to the news quite a bit, but I often turned off the radio and think,” Haman stated, “And I decided that I would try to help make the world a better place, by helping more people brainstorm ideas that would improve their lives.” “During the drive, I set a goal to help as many people as possible set their own “brainstorming records” by replicating the Thinkathon success with any group of any size.”

After returning to Chicago, Haman developed a method that would help every group regardless of their size, set their own brainstorming record. During the 13 years that have passed since Solutionman facilities the 454,000-idea Thinkathon brainstorm, he has led hundreds of groups with thousands of people who have generated millions of ideas.

Haman’s company, SolutionPeople Innovation, has certified over 250 innovation facilitators in 26 countries who use his unique brainstorming method to set records. Although facilitators invest thousands of dollars to become certified by Haman and learn the secrets of leading a Thinkathon, he agreed to share some of his brainstorming and facilitating strategies.

STRATEGY #1: USE A QUESTION BANK TO STIMULATE CURIOSITY. For the Singapore Thinkathon, Haman created a Question Bank of 100 questions based on 10 topics related to improving the quality of life for the people of Singapore. Topics included improving education, culture, safety, healthcare and government. For every brainstorming session, Haman suggests creating a well-organized set of questions. He taps into his database of more than 10,000 questions and then tailors them to the unique audience.

STRATEGY #2: RECORD IDEAS ON A SIMPLE WORKSHEET. Solutionman suggests you avoid using traditional flipchart paper because it is expensive and harms the environment. Thinkathon brainstormers get a pad of Haman’s “Idea Exchange” worksheets that are pre-printed with sections that motivate people to generate a high volume and wide variety of ideas. The Idea Exchange worksheets have been customized for companies such as American Express, Kraft, Motorola, DuPont, Google, Samsung, PepsiCo, Abbott and the Orlando Visitors & Convention Bureau.

STRATEGY #3: INVOLVE MORE PEOPLE TO GET MORE BRAIN POWER. Most facilitators think the ideal group size is 8-10 people. However, Haman learned that if you have more people, you can generate more ideas and better ideas. He has developed a system with clear instructions that allow him and his certified facilitators to facilitate audiences with hundreds or thousands of people. His system even works audiences that are seated in large auditoriums or convention centers that cannot provide traditional round tables.

STRATEGY #4: USE TOOLS TO STIMULATE BRAINSTORMING. While traditional facilitators like to distribute thought-provoking toys and fun resources, Solutionman prefers to give brainstormers TOOLS. His favorite is a hand-held tool he invented called the KnowBrainer. Tests at Northwestern University and Wayne State University found the KnowBrainer increased the volume and variety of ideas by over 500% versus traditional brainstorming. Haman recently released an App on iTunes called the iKnowBrainer, and it is now being incorporated into brainstorming sessions. The Android version of the iKnowBrainer will be released within 60 days.
If you want to learn how to facilitate better brainstorming sessions or be trained to become more innovative, you can join Solutionman for his monthly public innovation workshops at his Thinkubator Studio in downtown Chicago.

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