A Structured Brainstorm

The fruits of "structured brainstorming" in Cumberland/North Yarmouth

Just a sampling of the fruits of "structured brainstorming" in Cumberland/North Yarmouth

Here’s the kind of problem you want to have at a community event: Running out of room to post the sticky-backed flip chart paper due to a flood of good ideas.

That was about the only predicament the Cumberland/North Yarmouth team found themselves in last Tuesday night. (Well, and an electrical short caused by a crock pot — yes, a crock pot. But that was quickly remedied.)

Question: How does one come by such copious feedback in a relatively compact amount of time? Answer: Structured Brainstorming.

Explained to the group and facilitated by North Yarmouth Historical Society president Katie Murphy, structured brainstorming is a process by which every person in the room gets a chance to share ideas in an efficient and organized manner.

The brainstorming process at work

The brainstorming process at work

Passing around a microphone, Katie invited brief responses in two categories: topics of interests and resources out there that the team might not know about. And she imposed one strigent rule: No discussion. Just state your ideas and pass the mic onto the next person. While in a couple of instances this nipped some potentially intriguing conversation about local history in the bud, it allowed every person in the room to have his or her say, and generated a great many new ideas for the team to work with.

Pam Ames capturing the feedback, while Katie Murphy moderates

Pam Ames capturing the feedback, while Katie Murphy moderates

It also probably generated a hand cramp in Pam Ames, of Skyline Farm, a carriage museum in North Yarmouth, who impressively kept up with the myriad comments from the 26 attendees. Comments ranged widely. Some related directly to one of the team’s pre-determined themes of transportation. Where and when roads were built, the old Route 88 trolley, the movement of railroad tracks, the shipping industry, bus lines, and much more fell squarely into this category.

But there were plenty of other topics raised that explored the two-town relationship in diverse ways. Many of these were presented in the form of questions, such as: “How many industries/businesses collaborated across the two towns?” and, from a student, “What influence did members of our community/ies have on events that were more global or national?”

Community members chat after the event

Community members chat after the event

Once everyone had spoken, the evening that had begun with a delicious dinner of soup and bread, a welcome and introduction to the event by team leader and Prince Memorial Library director Thomas Bennett, and brief comments by other team members, drew to a festive close. Plenty of mini-conversations took place in the room over a final dash to the dessert table.

And, oh yes: All this (save the chit-chat at the end) was live. Broadcast on local cable access television. So while there were 26 community members in the room–and given the compact set-up, you would have thought there were twice that many–a good number more may have been tuning into the event from home.

So, a word to the team: Maybe you don’t want to put away that flip chart just yet!

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About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
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