logo-large-thinkergy

Brainstorming: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Brainstorming: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Whenever a business or a work team needs some ideas, someone in the group invariably suggests: “Okay, let’s brainstorm for ideas then.”

Brainstorming is arguably the most widely used creativity technique ever since Alex Osborn introduced the tool in his classic 1953 book Applied Imagination. Need some evidence? Brainstorming has played a central role in every book on creativity techniques. Some people even use the word brainstorming synonymously with creativity.

A search on Google delivers about 11.8 million results for the word “brainstorming” as compared to only 1.5 million hits for the term “creativity technique” – although, from a set theory point of view, the subset brainstorming is only a part of the whole “creativity technique” set. Take the simple Google popularity test as a warning sign: It suggests that brainstorming is often used in a context different from its original scope of being an idea generation tool.

Here we arrive at some of the problems with brainstorming. With reference to the title of the classic western movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, you need to understand the good, bad and ugly side of brainstorming to produce creative results for your company when using this tool.

The ugly side of Brainstorming

So let’s get started in gaining a greater understanding by looking at the ugly sides of brainstorming first: My experience as a creativity coach has taught me that in most companies, brainstorming is done incorrectly, thus delivering only comparatively few, rather unoriginal ideas. Most companies start on the correct path by assigning a facilitator to run the session and a recorder to jot down the ideas of the group in an appropriate size (eight plus minus two is a good rule of thumb here). However, they fail when it comes to following through on the all-important four Ground Rules of Brainstorming:

  • First, defer judgment until the end of the session – or in other words: no killing of ideas during the brainstorming. Judgment is like driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. So, take the foot off the brake to accelerate the idea output in a brainstorming session.
  • Second, go for quantity – as quantity breeds quality. Here, remember that the chances that you find one great idea out of an idea generation session will be higher if you get four hundred as compared to only a hundred ideas. As Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling noted: “The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas.”
  • Third, the wilder the better. Shoot for crazy, wild, absurd ideas — in line with Albert Einstein’s advice: “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”
  • Finally, combine ideas and improve on the ideas of others.

The bad side of Brainstorming

Moving on to the bad sides of brainstorming: Many research studies confirm that brainstorming is an inferior technique with regards to producing a high idea quantity. In a given time interval, a group of “brainwriters” that individually write down their ideas will generate roughly four-times more ideas then a same-size brainstorming group.

Researchers attribute this result to three effects that explain the deficiencies of brainstorming:

  1. First, some members of the group don’t participate and let others do all the work (the “free-rider phenomenon”);
  2. Secondly, some group participants avoid expressing wild or original ideas out of fear how other group members might privately judge them (the problem of “evaluation apprehension”);
  3. and third and most important, the “blocking effect” that stems from the fact that only one person can speak at a time and then blocks the thinking of other members who listen to the suggested idea instead of thinking for themselves.

The good side of Brainstorming

Finally, let’s talk about the good side: Brainstorming has become such a popular technique because it is a highly enjoyable, energetic activity that people love to do – and having fun and being playful and childlike (as opposed to being childish) are all very beneficial for unleashing creativity.

Brainstorming is a crucial ingredient in the creative culture of the industrial design powerhouse IDEO, and the innovation results delivered by this company speak for the benefits of this technique if used appropriately.

So what?

So how can we cure the bad and ugly sides of brainstorming while continuing to enjoy the benefits of its good side? Here are five recommendations on how you can develop a correct brainstorming culture in your company:

  1. Start the process by sending your employees to a quality creativity training workshop to learn the basics of idea generation.
  2. Have an individual Brainwriting exercise before every brainstorming session.
  3. Review the ground rules before the start of a session.
  4. Set an idea quota for each session — say, at least a hundred ideas in one hour that keeps the group focused on moving forward instead of falling into the judgment trap.
  5. Finally, have an experienced facilitator run the session, who introduces other creativity techniques (such as ‘Metaphors’ or ‘What if” (wishful thinking) into the session once the group starts running dry on ideas.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 


29 comments (Add your own)

1. wrote:
I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page layout of your website?
Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images.
Maybe you could space it out better?

Thu, May 9, 2019 @ 1:57 AM

2. wrote:
I simply couldn't go away your web site prior to suggesting
that I actually enjoyed the usual info an individual provide for your guests?
Is gonna be again incessantly to inspect new posts

Wed, May 15, 2019 @ 7:12 PM

3. wrote:
whoah this blog is magnificent i love studying your
articles. Stay up the great work! You already know, many individuals are hunting around for this information, you
could help them greatly.

Mon, June 3, 2019 @ 2:25 AM

4. wrote:
It's remarkable in support of me to have a web page, which is
beneficial in support of my experience. thanks admin

Fri, June 7, 2019 @ 3:20 AM

5. wrote:
Just wish to say your article is as surprising. The clarity on your submit is
simply spectacular and that i can suppose you're
an expert in this subject. Well with your permission allow me to clutch
your RSS feed to keep updated with approaching post.
Thank you a million and please continue the rewarding work.

Fri, June 21, 2019 @ 10:34 PM

6. wrote:
Asking questions are truly fastidious thing if you are not understanding
anything entirely, but this paragraph presents nice understanding
yet.

Fri, July 19, 2019 @ 7:01 AM

7. wrote:
Thank you a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually understand what you're speaking approximately!
Bookmarked. Please also visit my site =). We may have a hyperlink trade arrangement between us natalielise
pof

Thu, July 25, 2019 @ 1:04 AM

8. wrote:
I like the valuable information you provide to your articles.
I'll bookmark your weblog and check again right here regularly.
I'm reasonably sure I'll be informed a lot of new stuff proper
right here! Best of luck for the following!

Tue, July 30, 2019 @ 4:57 PM

9. wrote:
Thank you a lot for sharing this with all folks you actually know what you're talking about!

Bookmarked. Kindly also visit my website =). We can have a link
change arrangement between us

Sun, September 1, 2019 @ 5:09 PM

10. wrote:
I am sure this paragraph has touched all the internet visitors,
its really really good paragraph on building up new webpage.

Mon, September 23, 2019 @ 9:53 PM

11. roku.com/link wrote:
This is a generally excellent tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Basic however exact data… Thanks for sharing this one. An unquestionable requirement read article!

Fri, September 27, 2019 @ 12:59 AM

12. roku.com/link wrote:
This is a generally excellent tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Basic however exact data… Thanks for sharing this one. An unquestionable requirement read article!

Fri, September 27, 2019 @ 1:08 AM

13. wrote:
Having read this I thought it was rather
enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this information together.
I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments.
But so what, it was still worthwhile!

Thu, October 3, 2019 @ 5:17 PM

14. wrote:
naturally like your website but you have to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts.
Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very bothersome to inform the reality however I will
definitely come back again.

Sun, October 13, 2019 @ 11:28 AM

15. wrote:
Hello to all, the contents present at this site are in fact remarkable for people experience,
well, keep up the nice work fellows.

Sun, October 13, 2019 @ 12:08 PM

16. wrote:
Every weekend i used to visit this web page, as i want
enjoyment, for the reason that this this website conations
actually pleasant funny data too.

Wed, October 16, 2019 @ 4:45 AM

17. wrote:
If you are going for best contents like I do, just pay a visit this web page
daily because it presents feature contents, thanks

Wed, October 16, 2019 @ 7:47 AM

18. wrote:
Hi! I simply wish to give you a big thumbs up for the great
info you have got right here on this post.
I'll be coming back to your blog for more soon.

Wed, October 16, 2019 @ 7:56 AM

19. wrote:
Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came to check it out.
I'm definitely loving the information. I'm book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
Outstanding blog and brilliant style and design.

Wed, October 16, 2019 @ 5:26 PM

20. wrote:
You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the work
you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you
who aren't afraid to say how they believe. At all times follow your
heart.

Wed, October 16, 2019 @ 6:08 PM

21. wrote:
With havin so much written content do you ever
run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?
My site has a lot of completely unique content
I've either written myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is
popping it up all over the internet without my agreement.
Do you know any techniques to help reduce content from being stolen? I'd truly
appreciate it.

Fri, October 18, 2019 @ 5:39 AM

22. wrote:
This design is incredible! You certainly know how to keep a reader amused.
Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to
start my own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Great job.
I really loved what you had to say, and more than that,
how you presented it. Too cool!

Sun, October 20, 2019 @ 3:57 AM

23. wrote:
When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and
now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment.
Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
Cheers!

Mon, October 21, 2019 @ 11:19 PM

24. wrote:
I am not sure where you're getting your info, but great topic.
I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.

Thanks for wonderful info I was looking for this info for my mission.

Wed, October 23, 2019 @ 3:23 AM

25. wrote:
I am sure this post has touched all the internet visitors, its really really good article
on building up new weblog.

Wed, October 23, 2019 @ 5:43 PM

26. wrote:
Whats up very nice blog!! Guy .. Excellent ..

Amazing .. I'll bookmark your blog and take the feeds
additionally? I'm happy to search out a lot of useful info here
in the put up, we'd like develop more strategies on this regard, thanks for sharing.

. . . . .

Tue, October 29, 2019 @ 7:07 AM

27. wrote:
I'm amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that's both equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head.
The problem is something too few people are speaking
intelligently about. Now i'm very happy I came across this in my
hunt for something relating to this.

Wed, October 30, 2019 @ 3:22 PM

28. wrote:
Hello, I enjoy reading all of your article. I like to write a little comment to support
you.

Fri, November 8, 2019 @ 3:22 PM

29. wrote:
Howdy, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get
a lot of spam feedback? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything you can suggest?

I get so much lately it's driving me insane so any support is very much appreciated.

Sat, November 9, 2019 @ 3:01 PM

Add a New Comment


code
 

Comment Guidelines: No HTML is allowed. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Thanks.