Why Brainstorm Is a Waste of Time: Get Real 'Best' Ideas Faster

January 18, 2023

At a time when innovation is more important than ever, many organizations are discovering that brainstorming is not the best way to generate innovative ideas. In fact, recent research has shown that brainstorming often leads to worse ideas than if individuals had simply tried to come up with the best ideas on their own.

One reason brainstorm sessions are so popular is that they bring ideas to light. However, what is often collected at the end of each session is an idea base that bears little resemblance to real businesses. Because brainstorm management techniques are like that of 100 horses delivering 50 horsepower. You would actually be better of having them run alone.

A 2010 study at Syracuse University has shown that working alone is more productive than working in a group setting. Engaging in brainstorming uses a lot of brain cycles, which are important for creativity. The research also found that a large number of ideas are not generated when team members work with others.

Problems With Brainstorms

Brainstorming Is Made For Extroverts

Most of the people have trouble brainstorming because they do not think in such an open-ended way. They like to couch ideas in general terms, half-baked ideas if you will. Extroverts revel in this and enjoy taking part in brainstorms this way. For the rest of the population? They generate many ideas too but that usually happens on their own time. The only way to do a true brainstorm, a scientific brainstorm, is to make people interact with each other and that's pretty hard to do.

The Brainstorm Bottleneck

In a polite and orderly brainstorm session you have one person speak at a time. This is possible due to a flip pad because everyone has a recording machine. The orderliness to this also requires that everyone be talkative and knowledgeable enough to be a good orator. There is not enough time for everyone to talk and that leaves the possibility of many great ideas going unheard.

The 80/20 Rule

As far as brainstorming is concerned, the 80/20 rule applies. According to the 80/20 rule, 80% of the good ideas in a brainstorm session come from 20% of the participants. That's an amazing figure. What are the 80% of people in brainstorming sessions doing then? This false impression of a melting pot of great ideas makes brainstorming a sub-par option for decision making. Only a small part of the group are actually valuable idea generators. The rest? Cheerleaders and spectators. 

The Best Brainstorms Happen Individually

Great idea bearers suddenly have better ideas at a faster pace, with more range and willingness to explore alternative ideas, and when working alone. Brainstorming is a process and one that requires skilled thinkers to work in a orderly manner.  Great thinkers tend to focus on the low hanging fruit, the easiest ideas, not trees with greater reach and reproductive potential. Then, they'll work their way to the middle of the tree, they tend to do well on their own, working more quickly, exploring wider, and filling in parts neglected by others. Then converge on the final output. 

Alternative to Group Brainstorming

Although brainstorming is an extremely useful tool that allows activities related to solving business problems, research has shown that it is not as effective as previously thought. If you're looking at finding better ideas, try out these alternative tools instead:

The Six Thinking Hats

The Six Thinking Hats method helps us to recognize our ideas on the basis of six different thinking perspectives. At the head of each perspective is a hat that reflects either red (emotions), black (cautious and negative thoughts), green(creative thinking), white (information), yellow (supportive and positive thinking), or blue (facilitator).

SCAMPER Technique

"SCAMPER" is a creative tool designed to help brainstorm in meetings, addresses seven guided questions which can help solve a problem or ignite creativity in brainstorming conversations. The acronym stands for the seven techniques or questions that are relevant to the problem: (S) "substitute,"; (C)"combine,"; (A) "adapt,"; (M) "modify,"; (P)"put to another use,"; (E) eliminate; (R) reverse.

Mind Mapping

Often, ideas come in between meetings. Capturing the ideas from an afternoon session into a Mind Mapping tool allows ideas to be captured instantly so nothing gets lost. Out of these ideas, you might organize them into various areas, then expand on these as a group using a Mind Mapping tool.

Mind Maps are designed to reflect our natural thinking processes. This is a cognitive process where ideas either naturally branch off or you spark them off someone else’s ideas. Once you encourage your team to pass ideas on to someone else, you are apt to become more creative once again. Mind mapping software creates an endless canvas to sketch ideas, so if your piece of paper has a hard time capturing new lines or pens fall under the desk, don’t stress out.

In Conclusion

Stop wasting time and money on brainstorming sessions. They are not the Holy Grail of idea generation they are thought to be. Work alone in isolation. Then pour all the ideas you come up with into one central brainstorming session, preferably on paper, then go back out and deal with them individually. This will help you get more and better ideas every time. You can also share other ideas you have on your own in future sessions.

Now that you have your list of brilliant ideas, it's time to put those ideas into actionable items. Your ideas are as important as the way you communicate them. How do you communicate action plans to your team or colleagues? The best way to do this is by adding them into an easy to follow presentation. Something they can use as a visual aid when you present your great ideas. While idea generation isn't something you can outsource, presentation design definitely is. Get your best work done by professional presentation designers at Mad Creative Beanstalk. We can help you take your best ideas and turn them into easily digestible slides that can sell your winning dreams to internal stakeholders or external investors. 

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