Brainstorming – Does It Even Work?

Every company needs new ideas to make plans and introduce projects to implement those plans. All of these tasks are done as part of a team. And as a team, you need to make sure everyone’s voice is being heard and everyone’s ideas are being given equal room to get presented. And that is the main idea behind brainstorming. To discuss plans and ideas, and get everyone’s input.

This practice is performed with a few objectives in mind:
  • Generate several ideas.
  • Combine and shape these ideas better.
  • Prioritize the most unique plans.

This process is promoted in the team as well as individual work to ensure motivation levels to stay high and produce quality content. Researchers coined this term with the claim that it can result in performance being boosted by almost 50%. But even after all these years, there are a lot of people who would report that this process doesn’t encourage but rather hinders one’s growth.

Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work?

The idea of Brainstorming was put forward by Alex Osborn almost 6 decades ago. But even now there is more evidence of brainstorming harming creative performance than boosting it. A meta-analysis of teams indicated that people are more likely to come up with original ideas while working alone than when brainstorming. Teams tend to become less productive when brainstorming is involved and the presentations are oral. Moreover, people in teams tend to give up when they observe that their input isn’t generating a lot of results.

We have tried to come up with psychological explanations as to why brainstorming does not produce the result that people expect from it:

1.Social Acceptability Bias: when working in a team and being vocal with their ideas, people may tend to present ideas that they think everyone would accept instead of unique plans that they think may make them come off as stupid. Hence, their original ideas are never heard because of this reluctance in presenting them.

2. Bystander Effect: this holds the view that people tend to do less when they’re part of a team. When a more active, louder voice is part of a brainstorming session, the usually silent ones tend to become quieter. Furthermore, when we see others doing something with more energy, we feel less inclined to do it.

3. Production and Creativity Block: studies show that when large groups i.e. 7+ people come together to brainstorm, productivity and creativity levels decrease due to the limited space given to everyone for expressing their ideas.

4. Decline in Thinking: experts believe that when people work in large groups, the productivity level becomes average because the hard workers start thinking like lazy members, hence declining the rate of thoughtfulness.

Why Is It Practiced?

After looking at all the cons of brainstorming, the question arises that why is it even practiced? Brainstorming is promoted as a team-building exercise, where, by the end of the process, the team is expected to come up with new ideas to implement for growth. It differs from conventional meetings in the sense that it promotes the idea of an open and accepting environment for people to express themselves. Hence, every person gets a chance to speak without the fear of judgment because criticism is discouraged from brainstorming sessions.

Moreover, when team members are actively involved in developing an idea to come to life, they feel motivated to work for it to be successful. Brainstorming is a welcoming and fun approach that lets team members bond with each other in an energetic environment. Keeping these pros of brainstorming in mind, we’ve come with a list of activities for you to practice so that your brainstorming sessions can be more fruitful.

How Can Brainstorming be More Effective?

Contrary to what pessimistic thinkers believe, brainstorming isn’t just some placebo introduced in a company so that people ‘think’ they’re doing something productive. It can get your team the result you want if you do it right. Let’s discuss some ideas on how this can be made possible.

1. Adopt Different Perspectives

Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Let your team do the same. Once you’re thinking from a third-party perspective, it becomes easier to come up with solutions to problems. Ask yourself what someone you admire would do in this situation and brainstorm ideas to check what everyone came up with as a solution.

2. Go Virtual

At times, brainstorming is a necessity but the whole team isn’t present. Or you need to convey ideas through the different branches of the company across the country. In such situations, try going virtual. Conduct skype or zoom calls and collaborate with all the team members you need for the project. Use online apps to make brainstorming more visual e.g. mind-mapping tools etc.

3. Rapid Fire

Give every member a few minutes to think of and express their ideas. This way, they will tell you whatever comes first to their mind without having time to overthink it. This will also ensure that teams don’t end up taking an unnecessary amount of time on brainstorming sessions.

4. Go Round the Circle

The best way to make sure every member is involved is to go around a circle. Start with one person and proceed with the one next to them and so on until you’ve reached the last member in the circle. This way, every member is heard and no one gets left out. Don’t evaluate ideas until the very end and give every idea equal weight so that members aren’t discouraged from talking out loud.

5. Answer Team Queries

One method used by a lot of successful managers is to make their team come up with all the questions regarding the subject needed to be discussed. Once all these questions are out in the open, they try to find answers to each. With this tactic, teams make sure they’re not rushing into a plan that they haven’t thought through and it also gives new ideas to think about.

6. Write Down the Ideas

One practice you can introduce is to make your team write down the ideas they come up with. This will make the introverts and silent members to also take equal part since they won’t have to be vocal about their thoughts in front of a bunch of people. When the team works away from a group structure, they can come up with newer concepts that may not be as easily explored in a group setting.

The main idea behind brainstorming is that by bringing a set of different kinds of people together, companies can combine different kinds of knowledge, experiences, and perceptions to form a unique plan. What they fail to recognize is that every person doesn’t share or think in the same limited time or environment provided to them. Everyone needs their own space. By implementing at least some of the tactics given above, you can easily turn brainstorming into a productive team activity.

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