As we kick-off the New Year, businesses everywhere will be creating plans and strategies for 2023. Most will be accompanied by some sort of brainstorming session. But, I’ve got news for you: Brainstorming is bad for business!

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar with Dr. Martin J. Eppler, PhD, The Chair of Communications Management at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.  The name of the session was Ban Brainstorming.

Research shows that groups who use brainstorming are less productive in the number of ideas they propose and have poorer quality ideas.  This is because brainstorming has 6 key flaws:

  1. Dominance of extroverts: This one is obvious – in traditional brainstorming sessions, the extroverts tend to be more vocal about their ideas and those ideas get noted and potentially adopted.
  2. Production Blocking: When more vocal team members dominate the brainstorming conversation, this inhibits the quieter or more introverted team members from contributing to the ideation process. I personally can’t come up with ideas on the spur of the moment. I like to do research (a shocker, I know) about the problem, and think through solutions prior to vocalizing them. In these situations, I can’t do that.
  3. Premature Contamination: With more vocal team members directing the flow of the brainstorming session and some team members not being able to contribute, this results in contamination of the potential solutions that may be proposed by other team members. The only ideas being proposed will be building off the initial ideas proposed by the more vocal team members.
  4. Free Riding: Some members of the team do not actively participate in the session, failing to share their expertise or input about the topic.
  5. Lacking Idea Improvement: Now that there are some team members who have ‘checked out’ and conversation is being driven by a smaller group, this does not allow for improvement of the ideas, as the only people speaking are the ones who had the idea to begin with and may not see the flaws in their proposals.
  6. Lack of Stimuli: Creativity is like exercise. You can’t just expect to perform well without doing the necessary warm-ups and stretching. People can not just ‘flip a switch’ to start thinking about problems or situations in a new way when we haven’t set the stage that enables them to think about things in a new or creative way.

The implication of this research applies to, not only formal brainstorming sessions, but whenever we have meetings where problems / situations / concerns are discussed with the team.

“But wait, Rita! If we can’t brainstorm, how do we get our teams to collaborate to create new ideas?” Next week, we will review how to address these brainstorming flaws so that we can come up with the best solutions from our teams. #TeachingTuesday


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Build IT Live 2023 Logo - Brainstorming: Bad for Business – Part 1