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Why Brainstorming Sucks [Infographic]

Here’s a great infographic from Column Five on why group brainstorming is not the way to do innovation.

Creativity by committee doesn’t work because it hinders rather than facilitates productive thought and encourages lame groupthink; ¬†group brainstorming leads to;

  • Social Loafing (relying on others for input)
  • Social Matching (conformity)
  • Production Blocking (only one person at a time)
  • Lack of Attention
  • Fear of Rejection/Criticism

The proof? Tests show that independent brainstorming (following a group briefing/discussion) lead to more and better ideas.

The lesson for innovation? Get Darwinian – and run innovation projects as a survival of the fittest contest. Evolution is about competitive ideation and selection. So brief together, ideate and compete independently, then select together.

11 comments on “Why Brainstorming Sucks [Infographic]
  1. I think brainstorming does work if you do it the right way. There aren’t many collaborative tools where you can brainstorm both individually and as a group, without feeling threatened or perhaps too shy to say your idea. The best one that I’ve seen out there is GroupMap (you can check this out at http://www.groupmap.com.au) – I’m not sure of other software programs like this though?

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for sharing this info graphic. You are right about how times have changed and that experiment has been run in a whole range of psychology journals which shows that traditional brainstorming methods are no longer standing up to the test of time, especially as problems become more complex. There’s also the impact of dysfunctional group dynamics such as reticent, conversation bulldozers and rabbit holding (production loss as you put it).

    Methods such as charrette brainstorming (sometimes spelt charette) brainstorming was a technique used to handle large group brainstorming to reduce some of these brainstorming blockers, but the process was lengthy, repetitive and required lots of manual collation.

    I loved your darwanian approach to idea “survival”. We don’t believe that all ideas are born equal… but they should all stand a good chance of getting there. Is there such a thing as collaborative competition? Much like the concept of neuroplasticity, we’ve mimic the process of good ideas getting stronger while the weaker ones fade away.

    I wonder how many brainstorming activities are happening now with ideas just waiting for their chance!??

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  4. As a high school teacher I have struggled with getting students to work in really good collaborative groups. All the problems mentioned above are a reality in my classes. Everyone in education preaches about the benefits of collaboration, but few people teach us how to implement the collaboration. Thanks for a helpful article.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing! I will be using this infographic in my Professional Communications class this semester (high school) when we talk about group dynamics and groupthink. This will be very helpful to show the same information in another format.

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  7. Reg Manser on said:

    Nice infographic – it’s good to see someone questioning the wisdom of brainstorming (and reminding people how inefficient the technique is at generating ideas). From an agency perspective I totally agree with your comments about competitive ideation and selection – and the importance of critical judgement in selecting the fittest ideas (something we looked at in http://www.life-healthcare.com/blog/brainstorming-and-brandjamming ).
    As always, your blog is insightful and informative.

  8. This is so true! And the infographic is so lovely! Thanks for sharing this! Hope by reading this article I could be a the “meeting facilitator”, because yes it is so important to have one.

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