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Linda Erzah, CBAP
Linda Erzah, CBAP

Difference between a Brainstorm and Focus Group

If you work in new product development or have participated in maintenance projects, then most likely you have used either the focus group or the brainstorming technique. The brainstorming technique is used to produce ideas and increase creativity. For example, after you’ve defined your problem and are looking for the different solution options, you gather a few folks from your project team (mostly the development team) and ask them about what they think a solution could be. The result of these gatherings could be ideas/solution that are obvious, or the so-not-obvious-out-of-the-norm options. Brainstorming is a way to ensure that your organization remains innovative.

Focus group can also be used to gather ideas; however, focus group goes a bit further.

For example, focus group is used after the development of a prototype, in order to get an idea of how the market will respond to certain features of the solution.


During a focus group, you are looking to gather the attitudes (in forms of comments and feedback) about an idea, a solution or even a process. The participants of this meeting should be outsiders; meaning folks who are most likely to use/consume to product.  The result of a focus group would be the answers or feedback you’ve gathered during the meeting. This feedback can be compiled and organized by themes to present to the sponsors.

Here are the main differences between the two techniques:



Focus Group


Generate ideas

Improve existing ideas


A need to solve a problem

A need to study an existing idea, solution or process


Problem exist

Idea, solution or process exist




Number of participants

6 - 8

6 - 12

Participant types


Can be homogeneous or heterogeneous

Person running the show


Skilled moderator

Knowledge of topic of discussion

Not necessary

In depth knowledge of topic of discussion


Develop criteria for evaluating and rating ideas

Create a discussion guide and moderator scripts

Game Time



Ground rules

Must have

Nice to have


Restrict time to produce ideas

1 – 2 hrs

1 – 2 hrs and sometimes over several days

Type of questions to ask

Progressive closed-ended to generate and build on ideas

Can be open-ended  to generate qualitative data or closed-ended to generate quantitative data





List of ideas combined to form themes

Report of findings

Could be

- bullet list of information learned

- comparative analysis between to solutions

- summary of response collected for each question

This entry was published on Jun 22, 2011 / Linda Erzah, CBAP. Posted in Business Analysis, CBAP, Tools. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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