The Charette Procedure

One of the great things about brainstorming is the fact that it is an extremely simple process. You can sit down with a blank sheet of paper, focus your mind on a specific goal or problem, and quickly come away with plenty of new ideas to pursue. Unfortunately, it is that simplicity that is also a flaw when it comes to the effectiveness of brainstorming.

The Charette Procedure

If you have a complicated problem to solve, or if you need to include a large number of people within a brainstorming session, you may find that your results are less-than-impressive. When that is the case, putting the Charette Procedure into action is an option you should strongly consider.

The Charette Procedure is a form of brainstorming which is designed to help you keep the process on track and headed toward a successful outcome. There are a number of reasons to employ this procedure for your next brainstorming session, including those listed below –

  • You need to include a significant number of people in the brainstorming process. If there are more than 10 – 15 people who need to be included in the brainstorming session, using the Charette approach will make it easier to allow everyone to participate in a productive manner. If you attempt a standard brainstorming session with so many people, it is likely that only a small handful will actually have their ideas heard.
  • You need to solve more than one problem at the same time. Solving more than one problem at a time is not a strength of regular brainstorming, as the discussion can wind up far off track when multiple issues need to be resolved. With the Charette Procedure, however, you will have a way to address all problems at hand in an organized fashion.
  • You want everyone to have a voice. As is often the case in business meetings, the loudest and most-outgoing people in a brainstorming session are usually the only ones to be heard. That is not a good thing for team morale or for the productivity of the session, so using a framework such as this one is a great way to make sure everyone is heard equally. When you give all of your team members a comfortable environment in which to participate, you will be able to get their best ideas and best effort.

Advantages of The Charette Procedure

If you are facing an upcoming brainstorming session which you think needs structure in order to succeed, the Charette Procedure could be the perfect way to wind up with productive, innovative ideas.

Putting It to Work

To understand exactly how to put this procedure to work in your next brainstorming session, it will be helpful to walk through an example. For this example, we are going to imagine that there are 20 people whom you wish to include in a brainstorming session. These 20 people are going to be charged with attempting to solve three specific problems during this session. Obviously, if you were to simply collect 20 people in a room with the goal of solving three different problems, chaos could ensue. That won’t be the case here, however, as the structure you will give the meeting is going to allow it to progress nicely.

As a first step, you are going to divide the 20 people within the meeting into four groups of five. Working in smaller groups is almost always a good idea in a large meeting, as this reduces the chaos and allows more productive conversations to take place. Give each group a dedicated place to work – each group could even work in its own room, if necessary. Also, each group is going to pick a specific problem to tackle. Rather than trying to deal with all problems at once, groups are going to focus on a single issue to start. In our example, there are three problems and four groups, so two groups will be addressing the same problem.

An Example of the Charette Procedure

An Important Job

One of the most important steps of this procedure is the selection of a ‘recorder’ within each group. This person, obviously, is going to record the discussions that are taking place during the brainstorming session. The recorder is an important job because this person is actually going to move from group to group as the Charette Procedure moves from start to finish. The process itself looks like this –

  • With the groups established, the topics selected, and the recorders chosen, the first session will begin. Provide around 10 or 15 minutes for the groups to discuss the problem they have picked.
  • After the time for the first round has expired, the recorders are going to move from one group to the next (they can move clockwise around the room, or however you would like to organize movement).
  • The recorders will introduce their new group to the ideas of the first group, and the process will move forward from there. The Charette Procedure process is completed with a full rotation has been finished and each recorder has sat with each group.

When done correctly, this type of brainstorming session can leave you with a tremendous number of ideas after just a relatively short period of time. If you allowed for 15 minutes during each round in our example, the entire meeting would last just an hour. It is very likely that this hour will have been far more productive than an hour spent in a wide open, 20-person meeting without any structure or specific format.

The Charette Procedure is a great option when you have a large number of people to include and multiple problems to solve. Traditional brainstorming remains a valuable tool for smaller groups and situations where just one issue is on the table, but you need more advanced tools to deal with the added complexity that comes with big groups and multiple topics.

A Summary of the Charette Procedure

Your team members are likely to appreciate this brainstorming style because it gives everyone an opportunity to contribute – especially those who might be too quiet or shy to speak up in a large meeting. Now that you understand the basic format of the Charette Procedure, you can keep your eye out for an opportunity to put it to use in your own organization.

Key Points

  • The Charette Procedure is a form of brainstorming which is designed to help you keep the process on track and headed toward a successful outcome.
  • It can be used when you need to include a significant number of people in the brainstorming process, you have more than one problem to solve and you want everyone to have a voice.
  • The first step is to split people into groups of four or five, give each group a single issue to focus on, and appoint someone to act as a recorder for each group.
  • With the groups established, the topics selected, and the recorders chosen, allow around 10 or 15 minutes for the groups to discuss the topic they have been assigned.
  • After the time for the first round has expired, the recorders are going to move from one group to the next and introduce their new group to the ideas of the first group.
  • This process continues until a full rotation has been completed and each recorder has sat with each group.
  • The Charette Procedure is a great option when you have a large number of people to include and multiple problems to solve as it can generate a large number of ideas quickly whilst ensuring they everyone has a voice.

Free Management eBooks Most Popular

Today's Top Picks for Our Readers:
Recommended by Recommended by NetLine

Free Strategy Skills Resources

See the full list of Strategy Skills eBooks, templates and checklists available for free download right now.


Click Here!