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Try Q-Storming Instead of Brainstorming

Have you ever been stuck on a project?  Don’t know where to go?  Looking for ideas?

A common tool people will use in groups to help with get things moving will be to brainstorm.  The problem with brainstorming is it helps people converge on a particular answer.

People will put up any and all ideas they have already thought about.  Then ideas are voted on to narrow the field.  When finished the group ends up with a handful or less of ideas from the person with the strongest voice in the room.  Typically, these ideas are along the lines of the current direction of the work.

What if you don’t want to limit yourself in your thinking?  Come up with idea(s) that haven’t been thought of yet.

Have you tried Q-storming?  Instead of ideas, think of as many questions as the group come up with.  In a recent exercise, the group came up with over 30 questions about the work to be done.

It caused the group to dig in more and find answers to some very good questions.  The door was opened to several different ways to attach the problem.  Some of which were not even on the radar before the q-storming.  The team was able to shatter some assumptions.  Allowing them to work in a new way.  It was very freeing.

If you want your thinking to diverge from norm then try Q-storming.  Or if you have a need to converge your thinking use brainstorming.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.  A day to stop and give thanks for things in life.

I would like to pause and thank Joe Wilson for joining Beyond Lean this year as an author.  He has made great contributions.  Here are just a few of my favorites:

I also want to thank all the readers.  Without you, Beyond Lean wouldn’t be here.  Thanks for taking time out of your day to read what we post here.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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.