Many are convinced that if you lock several people in one room and set them some task, then by the collective mind they will definitely give birth to something brilliant. In this article, we will talk about why this method does not always live up to expectations, and how it can be improved.
Brainstorming doesn’t need much introduction. Teamwork can sometimes work wonders and provide out-of-the-box solutions that you can hardly think of alone. But with all the theoretical advantages of the brainstorming method, in practice it also has certain disadvantages.
Examples of Failed Brainstorming Scenarios
Example 1. Stand-up show by request
Perhaps the most common case in practice – one or two participants in a brainstorming session speak without shutting up, while others remain silent in a rag. It is likely that the quiet ones harbored some idea of their own, but they are afraid to express it due to their timid and modest nature. Worst of all, if such a brainstorming session is conducted by a “polite and decent” presenter who, due to his upbringing, cannot shout down or shut up the upstart with something worse than “please” and “be kind”. Brainstorming turns into a stand-up show where participants work together to satisfy one speaker’s ego, laughing at his jokes and jealous of his creative drive. While listening, someone who wanted to add something really worthwhile can easily forget their brilliant idea or a thought that suddenly flashed through.
Example 2. Idea tumor
It happens like this: brainstorming is quite normal. Participants work as they should, share opinions and ideas, give each other the floor, the meeting is very productive. But suddenly one of the meeting participants throws into the circle some kind of non-standard idea, which seems to him brilliant (in fact, it may not be such). And that’s it. The rest of the participants roll their eyes – they never thought about this option, did not suspect, did not guess. Magic idea! It seems that the brainstorming has achieved its goal: like a fire, a new discussion and debate breaks out. But some time passes and suddenly there is a deathly silence. Participants can no longer give birth to a single idea, and the task of throwing in as many options as possible remains unsolved. The parasitic idea, the tumor idea, has firmly settled in everyone’s brains and swelled so that everyone is already doomed.
Example 3. Endless gatherings
Couldn’t be worse for brainstorming when the moderators don’t set time limits. The deadline gives incentive, keeps the participants in a working tone, and the uncompromising attitude “we will never leave here until we come up with a brilliant idea” can work exactly the opposite. People begin to toil, to absorb coffee in liters, poking around in a smartphone – in a word, a continuous swamp begins. It is difficult for some of the participants to keep themselves in one topic, and the joint dialogue goes to the side, while someone is afraid to express their ideas, fearing that its discussion will drag on for another two hours, and already they want to go home. In the end, everyone loses. Such brainstorming is akin to a “planning meeting for the sake of planning meeting”.
Example 4. Interrogation of partisans
When people do not know each other well, have different hierarchies in the team, or come across an inexperienced leader, any brainstorming session can turn into a meeting of silent people. All participants are afraid to express ideas, do not know what to expect from each other, and the leader not only does not help them open up, but also unconsciously moves them away from communication. He doesn’t know how to set up a team, relax everyone with some kind of detached story, he doesn’t know how to set any rules of the game. As a result, the generation of ideas turns into an interrogation of partisans who do not want to surrender to the enemy so easily.
Example 5. Tupnyak Tupnyakevich
Although the theory usually says that the collective mind is omnipotent, sometimes absolutely all participants fall into a deep stupor, from which there is no way out. For some reason, no one goes beyond the most banal ideas. It’s like someone put up an invisible wall. In this case, the task of the moderator is to give the team some kind of incentive, to direct the discussion along some new vector. Unfortunately, it happens that the presenter himself is in prostration and in pitch fog. Tupnyak Tupnyakevich won.
Example 6. Destruction in the library
One of those brainstorming sessions that turns into Chaos. We didn’t have time to discuss one idea, as others immediately poured in like a shaft. Just keep writing. It happens like this: one idea prompted another, previously expressed idea, but what is its essence, who proposed it and what was meant by no one remembers. Digging begins in the memories, on the leaves and notepads, and you suddenly realize that the idea was not recorded by anyone, although everyone writes something to themselves there.
How to brainstorm that will definitely work
In order for brainstorming to bear fruit in the form of new brilliant ideas, you need to solve the points that were described above. Generally speaking, you need:
- Smooth out the difference in the personal qualities of the participants with clear rules of the game.
- Set clear time frames.
- Provide participants with incentives to develop discussion in case of deadlocks
- Make sure that the moderator of the conversation implements all these requirements.
- Record everything you can think of.
We suggest you use the method of brainstorming, which was developed by the authors of the article, the company “1000 Ideas” through trial and error, as well as taking into account their own developments to generate ideas.
Scenario for Effective Brainstorming
1. Fixing obvious ideas
You have a problem that needs to be solved. You need to solve it in a non-standard way, otherwise you would not brainstorm. This means that you no longer need the standard answers to your question that are spinning in the language. Write in a conspicuous place all these obvious ideas at once and circle them so that you do not return to them again. This action will “deflate the bubble” and other participants in the assault will not offer these ideas just for the sake of suggesting something.
2. Division into mini-groups
A large team is not always good. The most active will dominate and work, and someone will want to drop out. To prevent this from happening, you need to break the audience into mini-groups. This stage should have a strict time limit: the effect of competition between teams (which team comes up with more ideas – that one won) does not hurt. Work in mini-groups includes two sub-stages. Note that the time limit and fixing ideas on paper is very important – such a modification of brainstorming is otherwise called Brainwrighting (“brainwriting”).
3. Statement of obvious ideas of the second order
There are so-called second-order ideas. They are not so obvious, but still, many are spinning on the tongue. Each team needs to immediately dump them on paper and fix them, and then move on to the next part of the brainstorming session.
4. Generating Ideas with Stimulus Materials
And then – the most interesting begins. After all the quick ideas are out and the conversation dies down, the facilitator distributes materials to each person in the group to help spark new ideas. Anything can be such stimulants: unusual objects, stationery, badges, cards or pictures. The association with this object or card should serve as a kind of clue for a person that will help him express a new unusual idea to the group.
In order to increase the effectiveness of brainstorming, there are many different tools. Many companies use metaphorical cards as clues. Metaphorical cards are a set of pictures with unusual multi-valued images and metaphors that can be interpreted in completely different ways. Relatively speaking: participants look at a picture of a tree on which giant cherries grow, which do not exist in nature. One recalls how his grandmother fed him cherry jam as a child, the second sees the red balls given to him for his 10th birthday, the third thinks about how he once got poisoned by a cherry pie bought at the market. This method is actively used in psychology, helping psychologists to uncover the problems of clients and better understand their situation.
However, metaphorical cards are not as good at brainstorming and are not for everyone. Many people perceive text better than pictures. Others respond better to headings or numbers, capacious phrases. Some people look closely at the small details, while others perceive the picture as a whole. Before you are going to distribute incentive materials to participants, this factor must also be considered.
To increase the number of associations that can be drawn from a single card, 1000 Ideas has developed its own brainstorming idea generation tool, the 1000 Ideas Card Set . Each of the 156 game cards contains 7 unique stimuli-tips for creating ideas at once: an imperative title, a metaphorical picture, a textual description of the strategy that reveals the meaning of the title, tips and tricks for the practical implementation of this strategy, and a trend (an example of how the described strategy embodied in the modern world) and a reference to the technique of creativity.
Despite the fact that work with cards can be carried out in the format of separate exercises, sometimes one glance at a card from a set of “1000 ideas” is enough for a person to come up with a new idea. The productivity of any creative task increases many times over. For example, in this article we looked at how to come up with 146 social media post ideas with just 10 cards.
5. Reading ideas to the general group
Representatives of each group in turn read out all the recorded ideas that their team managed to come up with. The facilitator records everything on the board.
6. General discussion
This is followed by a general discussion of all the proposed ideas in order to come up with something new or develop a specific plan for its implementation from some idea. At this stage, a lot already depends on the purpose of the brainstorming session. However, regardless of the goals, the end time of the entire process must be clearly regulated.
7. Return to rejected ideas
When all ideas are exhausted, it is recommended to revisit the earliest and rejected ideas. It is quite possible that the most obvious of them, which were fixed at the first stage, will now appear in a new light. If the result of the brainstorming did not satisfy the team, incentives are sent to the rescue again and as many times as necessary – psychological cards “1000 ideas” .