The Charette Procedure

Brainstorming Multiple Ideas With Multiple Stakeholders

© iStockphoto/Nikonbuff

Have you ever tried to hold a brainstorming session with more than 10 or 15 people? Or tried to brainstorm ideas for two or more related issues? The results are rarely pretty! These sessions quickly spin out of control, becoming chaotic and unproductive. What's more, they tend to be dominated by only a few people, with the majority remaining silent.

When an idea-generating session has numerous related issues or numerous stakeholders, simple brainstorming is often inadequate. This means that sessions are less creative than they might be, buy-in is undermined, and people disengage from the process. This is a serious problem if you need to achieve consensus. However, brainstorming can still be effective if you take a slightly different approach to organizing the brainstorming sessions.

One such approach has a name: The Charette Procedure (sometimes spelled 'Charrette'). It involves organizing people into several small groups, each of which brainstorms ideas one-after-the-other until everyone involved has had a chance to contribute fully. Derived from the French word for wagon, it come from the practice of architecture students in the early 1800s, who used carts to rush their drawings from one place to another to get final approvals. In much the same way, when you use the Charette Procedure, you take the ideas generated by a group, and cart them over to the next group, for them to be built upon, refined, and finally prioritized.

The Charette Procedure allows for maximum participation in idea generation, without compromising the quality or effectiveness of the brainstorming. The benefits of the process include:

  • Effective use of time because many issues can be discussed at the same time.
  • Improved buy-in from stakeholders, who have the opportunity to contribute their ideas on each issue.
  • Encouragement of high quality options because the most popular ideas are polished with each round of discussion.
  • Elimination of stalled discussion, because new people can progress an issue on each round.

How to Use the Tool

The Charette Procedure is quite simple to apply. Depending on your situation you may...

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