Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Brainstorming doesn't work

I don't know about you, but I really dislike those brainstorming sessions that start too many planning meetings. My sense has always been that they are pretty much a waste of time. Now, here's proof. By the way, you may remember that Frans Johansson was the keynote speaker at InnoVenture 2005.


Patrick said...

Interesting read. I've been in so-called "brainstorming" sessions in the past and one of the main reasons they don't work is mentioned in the article is the rules of brainstorming and hard to follow in a social setting. Despite what they say about all ideas being on the table I have ideas shunned because of the perception of the person presenting the idea.

This is kind of sad story but I worked in an office one time and a lady who worked with me had some very good ideas but some of the managers shunned her ideas because she was either a woman or "didn't think like they did". She knew this and as an experiment she asked if I would go in the office of some of the managers and present her ideas as if they were my own.

They thought "my new idea" was the best and pursued it.

Claire said...

Quite a negative experience you've had! I've found that brainstorming is, like focus groups, a tool that is over used and misused. While its purpose, as a tool, is entirely different, it faces some of the same issues. Many brainstorms and focus groups are useless, but that is because they are not conducted in a professional manner. They can be very useful, but to achieve that one first needs to question whether the method will be useful to a particular situation. Then the challenge is in the planning, the definition of clear objectives, attendance by key stakeholders, and discipline.

According to Alex Osborn, the father of the "brainstorm", " brainstorm means using the brain to storm a creative problem, and think up solutions, ideas or new concepts. Brainstorming is also used to filter out ideas, identify relationships, trends, etc. Is there a problem to be solved? If so, was the problem clearly defined? Was the group’s creative thinking pushed and stimulated? While brainstorming is generally a group activity, it can be an individual activity. In addition, there are variations to the standard format, and ways to bypass people bias, for instance by having people write down one idea, pass their piece of paper to the next person who adds some thoughts, and repeated until everybody gets their original piece of paper back, or by brainstorming online as opposed to face-to-face, etc.