Brainstorming has been around for at least 50 years yet it has a dirty secret.
It does not live up to its promise.
Here are the major problems with Brainstorming:
1. It takes time to organise
The problem with this is that in a fast-moving world with your client on your back you need ideas now.
2. You need a special room.
Many organisations have set up special creative thinking spaces.
But what if they are booked but you need to solve a problem in a hurry.
You can try a meeting room but they also might be booked.
3. It takes too long
This is a huge problem for time-poor people. This means that you must wait for the key people to be available and/or you proceed with the session knowing that important people are missing.
4. You generate ideas but do not know how to evaluate these.
I have attended many a brainstorming session and lots of ideas are generated but no-one has thought through how to evaluate them. Someone often then volunteers to evaluate the ideas but the group has long gone and sometimes lost interest.
5. Someone has to type up the ideas
This is another big momentum buster. You have lots of energy and enthusiasm but by the time that participants get a copy of the note they have moved on to another project.
6. Not everyone contributes equally.
Another big issue for advocates of brainstorming. Extroverts or the senior people tend to dominate group work. This means the more introverted types often do not get a look in. A lovely book on introverts by Susan Cain highlights this issue beautifully (http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/about-the-author/).
7. The group can get fixed on a dominant idea
Edward de Bono has identified the problems with our current thinking system in that we can get stuck on well-worn thinking habits or patterns. This applies to a group as well in a concept called group think. In a brainstorming session it is easy to get dominated by a particular idea which means that the originality of the output is low.
8. It is hard to brainstorm by yourself.
Sometime you don’t have the time to call a group together but you need to solve a problem in a new and different way. What do you do?
9. You have wait for others
One of the biggest problems of brainstorming. This is called production blocking and it means that we have to take it in turns to offer up our ideas. The problem with this is that it poses a cognitive load on every participant i.e. you have to hang on to your ideas whilst following other conversations.
10. Lots of ideas yet little action.
The aim of any brainstorming session should not be to generate lots of ideas but to solve a problem. The ideas are the means to the end not an end in itself. hence any session should finish with a clear view of who does what, when.
Where to from here?
As you can see, there are numerous problems with brainstorming yet it remains the most popular group creative thinking tool. On the plus side it is fun, engaging, feels creative and simple to learn.
But wouldn’t it be better to leverage the strengths of Brainstorming and overcome the weaknesses of this much-used tool?
We have designed a new online and face-to-face tool called Blitz.
With Ideas Blitz:
– The problem owner can call a Blitz at a moments notice.
– You can hold it anywhere e.g. a small space or online (or some combination).
– A Blitz can be conducted very quickly (i.e. 20 minutes or less).
– Everyone contributes evenly e.g. at the start stage everyone working by themselves tries to generate 9 ideas in two minutes.
– You rarely get ‘stuck’ as there are many different starting points. And there is a random connecting feature which creates more original ideas.
– You can Blitz by yourself and the ideas are captured and can be shared immediately.
Ideas Blitz is a fast, energizing way for any group or team to become more creative and productive.