Does Brainstorming Work?

According to this article, the answer is that brainstorming doesn’t work.   At least it may not in the way that I have been conditioned to believe.  Frankly, I was so excited when I read this article I didn’t want to talk about it for a while.  I felt like I had finally found the answer to a question I had been thinking about for a long time.

I can’t honestly say that I have gotten anything for all of the time I have been in a designated brainstorming meeting in my life.   It’s not that I haven’t been a part of something where the group collective came up with a better answer than the individuals.  It’s just that I’ve never been a part of something that followed the textbook brainstorming rules that came up with anything better as a group.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I’m so bad at it that I bring down the performance of the group.  (If I had to guess, it’s the part about not judging ideas that I fail the most at.)  I’d take it personally if I thought it was just me.  I’ve been around some facilitators that were better than others at not making people feel corralled, but not one where people really felt engaged and that the answer was a part of some sort of group synergy.

I have to hope that my experience wasn’t my fault as I theorized above.  Maybe my sample size of experiences isn’t big enough or chosen from a good pool.  I really don’t know.  I’d like to think that for all of the positive PR that brainstorming has gotten over the years that it has to have worked for somebody and there are lots of success stories out there.  Unfortunately,  I haven’t heard them and I sure can’t tell them.

Posted on July 6, 2012, in Engagment, Improvement, Problem Solving and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I have to agree. I haven’t had anything meaningful come out of a textbook brainstorming session. I find it can take things in too many directions and leaves less structure than desired. That may be because of my personality type. What do others think?

  2. I agree, I have never found group brainstorming very effective. Check out the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. She has a section of a chapter on brainstorming and why it isn’t very effective and then suggestions for improving its effectiveness.

  3. Is it a case where what is done with the fodder coming out of the brainstorming event is where the real value is? If we are looking for “the answer” directly from an unstructured event, that could happen, but most likely you have a bucket of things to then afffinitize and form into coherent ideas/ways ahead. Then the more viable solutions will rise to the top and turn into direction for the project. The brainstorming event itself can be just an opportunity to vent, but it does get all the ideas out in the open for further analysis. You have to have some degree of “input” to start the process of improvement, and a brainstorming session certainly does provide that.

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