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Charrette comes from the French word for wagon- coined in the 19th century, Parisian architects would whizz around town with their drawings in wagons, seeking approval from the higher ups. What resulted was a set of ideas directed at one project with input from multiple people. This process increases the effectiveness of brainstorming because

  • Many issues can be discussed at the same time
  • Multiple stakeholders buy-in because their contributions have been heard
  • High-quality ideas float to the top with successive go-arounds
  • Stalled discussions are minimized as new people progress issues on each round.

For today’s exercise, you are charged with deciding who your audience is and which earthquake prediction tool you propose to use. You will have 45 minutes for discussion. After the 45 minutes, you will present a 1-minute synopsis describing your audience, which three tools you are considering and why these were chosen.


  1. Choose a recorder for your group. This person will be responsible for taking notes and reporting back to the larger group.
  2. Brainstorm! Use the first 5 minutes working alone to come up with a list of ideas. Seek those that sound just a little bit crazy.
  3. Use the next 10 minutes to share ideas by going around and around with each member of the group. Work to determine if these nutter ideas can be crafted into an original, creative solution that you are trying to solve. Get outside of the box. Hit it hard.
    1. Record ideas on the whiteboard so everyone can see.
    2. This is a no criticism zone! Work to develop other people’s ideas. The point is to open up possibilities and break down sketchy assumptions about the limits of the problem. Judgment at this stage can stunt idea generation.
  4. Next, review ideas and evaluate (15 mins). Explore solutions with a more critical eye at this point.
  5. Determine the three best ideas. Have the rapporteur be ready to present at the end.

(from Brian McAdoo)

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