Brainstorming…a dying method. Or is it?

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk that brainstorming is an old-fashioned and dying method. The biggest argument against the practice involves the psychological phenomenon of groupthink. Groupthink occurs in a group of people when the desire for conformity wins out and individuals stifle their potential creative thoughts. Recently, William Duggan, a Columbia Business School professor and innovation expert explained that brainstorming is also based on a model of neuroscience that was abandoned over a decade ago.
The theory of brainstorming is that you turn off your analytical left brain, turn on your intuitive right brain, and creative ideas pop out. But neuroscience now tells us that there is no right or left side of the brain when it comes to thinking. Creative ideas actually happen in the mind, as the whole brain takes in past elements, then selects and combines them.
The most basic method of brainstorming follows a certain order. First, every member writes down as many ideas as they can. The idea behind this is quantity over quality. Then, the group combines and improves on the ideas, until an innovative idea is reached- the end goal. The idea behind this method is to withhold all criticism and judgement, which is believed to stifle potential ideas.
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Many different variations of brainstorming arose since the practice was first introduced in the 1950’s. Some interesting and notable examples are anonymous group techniques, group passing technique, team idea-mapping techniques. In group passing, each member writes an idea and passes the paper down for the next member to add on to the idea until a full circle is complete. In team idea-mapping, each member individually brainstorms before putting all member’s ideas onto one large idea map. Each of these variations provide different ways to reach the desired outcome- coming up with a truly innovative idea.

While brainstorming has often been under scrutiny for stifling creativity and producing groupthink, many still believe the practice can produce great results- if done correctly. It is important to assemble a diverse team, with each member bringing something new to the table. Bringing in different members to a brainstorming session can keep the ideas fresh. It is also a good to go outside of your workplace. Ideas can flow a lot more easily when in an offsite and creative environment. It is especially important to withhold any negative judgement in a group. Every member should be equally heard and encouraged.

What are your experiences with brainstorming? Have you seen success with a certain variation of the practice? Please tell us in the comments, we would love to hear!