Re-Inventing Brainstorming – Ten Tenets for Better Idea Generation
Brainstorming – the creation of new or possible ideas – is a critical part of any problem solving or creative process. We all know it. We know that we must have ideas in order find solutions to problems. We even know that the more ideas we find, the better chance we’ll have of creating the best possible solution.
Yet our brainstorming processes fall woefully short.
Not because we don’t know the “rules” of brainstorming – every group will tell me those:
– no evaluation of the ideas now (we’ll do that afterward)
– the more ideas the better
– it is ok to build on other people’s ideas
– there are no dumb ideas
That isn’t the problem (though even these rules sometimes aren’t followed and that can be a problem as well).
The problem is that we try to brainstorm without a clear problem statement, in the middle of a long meeting, when people are already tired, and they are sitting in a relatively (or totally) sterile, uncreative space. Then, as if by magic, people who for the most part, don’t consider themselves to be highly creative are expected to create the ideas that will make a difference with the product, process or problem.
It may not be impossible, but the deck is certainly stacked against us in these situations.
I believe we need to re-invent the brainstorming process at work. Here are my tenets for this re-invented process.
1. We brainstorm only after we have a collective understanding of the process or problem.
2. We provide the needed clarity with a clear statement of the problem. (Most often this may be phrased as a question.)