Brainstorming under constraints: why software developers brainstorm in groups

  • Patrick C. Shih ,
  • Gina Venolia ,
  • Gary M. Olson

Proceedings of the 25th BCS Conference on Human-Computer Interaction |

Published by British Computer Society

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Group brainstorming is widely adopted as a design method in the domain of software development. However, existing brainstorming literature has consistently proven group brainstorming to be ineffective under the controlled laboratory settings. Yet, electronic brainstorming systems informed by the results of these prior laboratory studies have failed to gain adoption in the field because of the lack of support for group well-being and member support. Therefore, there is a need to better understand brainstorming in the field. In this work, we seek to understand why and how brainstorming is actually practiced, rather than how brainstorming practices deviate from formal brainstorming rules, by observing brainstorming meetings at Microsoft. The results of this work show that, contrary to the conventional brainstorming practices, software teams at Microsoft engage heavily in the constraint discovery process in their brainstorming meetings. We identified two types of constraints that occur in brainstorming meetings. Functional constraints are requirements and criteria that define the idea space, whereas practical constraints are limitations that prioritize the proposed solutions.