Why does Brainstorming suck so much? Here’s how to fix it.


Why does brainstorming suck so much?

The word brainstorm is so abused that it seems pervasive in modern business.

In actual fact Brainstorming is a old fashioned technique invented in the 1950’s the era of the Mad Men. In my opinion brainstorms are used by lazy management types to give a metaphorical tick to the political expediency required to rope buy in from all those people from the office. Its a trick to make people feel involved.

That may be good for team building, but as a mechanism to generate new ideas or innovation it sucks.

The basic tenants for a brainstorm are

  • To generate as many ideas as possible
  • Not criticise people’s ideas
  • Welcome unusual and daft ideas
  • Combine and improve ideas in a collaborative environment.

So why do brainstorms fail?

Let me tell you

Why Brainstorming fails

BoredMeetingIt comes down to the requirement for a monumental amount of trust required by people to accept that they can come out with unusual ideas in a public forum. The social confidence that is required by the members of such a meeting to speak up with a hare-brained idea is phenomenal. To acquire an uninhibited performance of a random set of people feel free to contribute ideas I think is largely unachievable.

I find that

  • the really smart people simply won’t want to speak at these events
  • the experienced folks don’t want to speak for fear of appearing negative
  • the naive members to rarely contribute anything of value.

Sure you can argue that if a brainstorm is facilitated by a charismatic manager you could circumvent some of this. But unless it is run by an individual with the the horse power to then execute any vision that emerges even this can be a non starter.

What invariably occurs are meetings inspired by politics rather than idea generation. I’m convinced that no innovation occurred from the delusions of a contrived committee setup.

So what should you do to generate ideas from the shop floor so to speak?

How to Fix Brainstorming

Instead of Brainstorming, you need to be PainStorming.

A Painstorm is a meeting where individuals meet to work out problems that need solutions.

By framing the meeting into one where problems are discussed you are using your team’s experience to full advantage. It chimes with their desires to improve and will help define the issues to which an innovation could be brought about by a team with skills to deliver it.

You could say it is a mechanism to define the sides of the box with which 1950’s management types suggest you should think out of.

But more of that in another post me thinks


I hope you find this article interesting, do please check out my e-book,  Innovation Muscle. Its a short sharp read as to how you and your team can innovate fresh powerful ideas. You see I think that all people can innovate, they just need to know how. Using these processes you will be able to create ideas that punch well above their weight.

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Innovation Muscle
How to get your innovation team to punch above its weight

Anyone purchasing the book will receive not one, but TWO FREE mini e-books that are supplied directly as PDF files to your inbox. These can be distributed to you team when starting a new project or used simply to sanity check your existing processes.

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Photo licensed from Stock photo © Dangubic Image Stock photo © KatarzynaBialasiewicz


Image: Stock photo © tap10

4 thoughts on “Why does Brainstorming suck so much? Here’s how to fix it.

  1. Alternative way to fix Brainstorming:

    1. Set up brainstorm with all the people who have strong opinions about the subject of the brainstorm. Book out at least 2 hours and supply sandwiches, flipcharts, and coloured pens

    2. As the brainstorm is about to start, go to the pub with the 1 or 2 people who you already know will have the most useful thoughts to share and sort out the issue with them.

    3. After 2 hours, return to office, thank brainstorm participants, collect flipcharts

    4. Bin flipcharts

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