Brainstorming: With Anonymity and without

28 Feb

I was reflecting for a moment on the picture here, where Design Thinking was in action, and was thinking about how we often ask students, teachers, parents, administrators, workers, and so on to add their ideas to a wall through a brainstorm method.  But I was also thinking about accountability.  I wonder if it would be better to create a system like this where everyone needs to have their name attached to their idea.  My theory is that it would help in two ways.

The first is that the overall architect(s) would be able to return to the brainstorm and see who’s name is attached to the idea.  This way, if there is a problem, they can quickly follow-up with that person to get a clearer idea of what they were writing about.

The second idea stems from the fact that I assume people will put more effort into an idea if they know their name is attached to it.  With anonymity could come sloppiness, laziness, or downright silliness.

Where I think it might squash some of the better ideas because people may not want to put them forth since their name is attached, to counteract this, people could be asked to come back to the wall or another wall for another turn at it.  This time, they could put any idea that came to their head, but could do it anonymously.

I would argue that using both methods would be most useful because most ideas would be well thought out and articulated from those who had their names attached, but the second method would enable out-of-the-box thinking and the bizarre ideas to flourish.

What do you think?  Has this approach been done before?


Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Design, Education


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2 responses to “Brainstorming: With Anonymity and without

  1. Shary Lyssy Marshall

    March 2, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Tom,

    I love the idea of giving participants an option for both: include your name or don’t. Both are accepted. I haven’t seen anyone use that explicitly for the reasons you outline, but can imagine interesting results.

    I know one administrative colleague who takes her end-of-meeting exit slips (which she does each time for feedback) one step further and scans and shares all of them for all to see. She has found this this element of transparency and accountability to be a game-changer for school culture.

    • | Tom Johnson

      January 23, 2022 at 10:58 am

      Hi Shary,
      I think I have seen the scanning and sharing as well. Not only does it make things transparent and accountable, but it also demonstrates good practice and shining a light on possible peer ideas. Thanks for sharing.


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