Activate the Stormdrain

Stormdraining is a collaborative activity designed to follow a brainstorming session. It helps groups reduce a large collection of ideas, activities, or components into a smaller collection of the most valuable or promising ideas.

Stormdraining is most effective when a team has an unwieldy pile of ideas and no clear sense of direction. Similarly, this tool is useful when a team’s activities lack prioritization or focus, or if there are conflicting ideas about the project’s priorities causes

How It Helps

  • Provides clarity and builds consensus about the problem to be solved.
  • Facilitates prioritization and focus.
  • Reduces wasted effort and mis-aligned, unproductive activities.

How To Do It

As a group, assemble a large collection of ideas, requirements, design components, process steps, or other design elements. This may be an existing collection or the results of a fresh brainstorming session.

Invite the team to distill the large collection into a smaller, more focused set. Remove items from the collection by using the following 5 Rules of Stormdraining.

RULE 1. Everything Is on the Table No sacred cows, please. Every single item is fair game for going down the drain.

RULE 2. Delete Is the Default Turn the pencil around and make liberal use of the eraser. Not sure if something should be deleted? Only one way to find out…

RULE 3. Build on Other People’s Deletions Your teammate’s suggestion to remove one thing likely points to other parts that can also be removed. The objective is to reduce quantity and hone in on the essentials, so practice “Yes, and…”

RULE 4. Make It Fun Celebrate and encourage the deletions. Compliment people’s creativity and courage when they propose sending something down the drain.

RULE 5. When You Delete Something, Really Delete It Don’t set it aside and save it for posterity. Don’t take a photo to preserve the moment. Erase it. Drain it. Make it go away.

Actions You Can Take
  • Identify an area that is overly complex or contains a large collection of unsorted ideas, designs, components, or facets.
  • Explain the five rules of Stormdraining and invite the team to apply this method to the topic.
  • Assess the outcome – briefly discuss whether the smaller set of remaining items is a better collection than what you started with.
  • Visit the Stormdraining page on MITRE’s Innovation Toolkit site for a more detailed explanation.
  • Contact an accelerator SME for additional assistance.
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