Innovation and the Value of Brainstorming

by Mike Brown

Innovation and the Value of BrainstormingYou’ll occasionally see an article or blog post questioning the value of brainstorming as a tool to generate and improve the quality of innovative ideas. One criticism usually stems from the “poor” efficiency of brainstorming, since many ideas are generated which never get developed.

This misconception is fostered by “rules” shared at the start of most brainstorming exercises stating “every idea is a good idea.” This guideline creates a false expectation that every idea shared in the brainstorming session is ultimately good or even implementable.

More accurately, this rule sets up a period of divergent thinking. That’s when strong facilitators ensure a focus on generating the maximum number of ideas with minimal explanation and judging.

Ultimately though, judgment isn’t thrown out in brainstorming or innovation processes. It’s only suspended during a good divergent thinking session. The switch has to then be made to convergent thinking where ideas most certainly need to be judged. In practice, maybe 10% of the ideas survive for further consideration, and still fewer for implementation.

Sure the process can seem unruly and unproductive, but for anyone who’s tried to sit at a desk by themselves and think up innovative ideas, brainstorming is a tremendously beneficial process to use.

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Mike BrownMike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company’s chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” and is a frequent keynote presenter.

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  1. Mike, I totally agree. Well said.

  2. Mike,

    I agree with your comments about the value of brainstorming. These days, with the availability on online tools and platforms available to conduct brainstorming sessions, it almost seems that one has to distinguish between face-to-face and virtual brainstorming. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about the difference between the two (and, of course, the similarities).

    It seems to me that either type of brainstorming can result in good ideas (and insights – which i define as a collection of similar ideas), a positive change in corporate culture towards innovation (it validates the theory ideas can come from everywhere, and that anyone can contribute), and if done properly can be cost effective. Diversity of participants and a well framed challenge question(s) are key to achieving these results, in my opinion.

    – Cesar

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