I was recently working in China facilitating a creative thinking and innovation course and for a large part of the day we discussed brainstorming.

This makes perfect sense because Brainstorming is the most popular creative thinking tool.

Indeed for many people it is the only creative thinking tool they know.

The pros of brainstorming are as follows:

– It can be fun.

– Social

– You can build on the ideas of others.

– It is an opportunity to practice your creative thinking.

– If the session is run well there should be no criticism.

– It is a simple tool that is easy to learn.

The cons of Brainstorming are:

– No everyone contributes evenly

– The extroverts, leaders or the big personalities can dominate.

– The group gets stuck on a particular idea

Р People can loaf.

– It is slow to organise and run.

– Social evaluation can still occur even with the best groups.

– People have to wait for one another to contribute their ideas (i.e. production blocking)

– Group think.

Where to from here?

My suggestions as an experienced brainstorming and ideation facilitator are as follows:

– Make it shorter (a maximum of 3- to 45 minutes is plenty of time).

– Call brainstorming sessions more frequently. It is better to have (at least) a weekly session rather than one big session every month.

– Invite people close to the problem and people outside of the issue (i.e. this creates a creative tension).

– Send the problem out a few days beforehand and ask people to come along with a usual, different and radical idea. Or have each person run their own Blitz and bring along their top 3 ideas (if you have 6 people you immediately have 18 ideas).

– Evaluate the ideas as you go e.g. what is a great idea? What is original and what won’t work? Then spend more time on the original ideas.

– Capture and distribute the ideas as fast as you can. Too many brainstorming sessions end with the notes being sent out 2-3 weeks after the session.

– End every session with a thank you and a clear set of next steps.

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