Get ready for something you’re probably not prepared for. Brainstorming isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Though well intended, studies have shown that brainstorming actually inhibits creativity. Why? Well, fundamental human nature is the short answer.
The slightly longer answer comes down to the fact that when you put a number of people in a room and say: “Be creative! Be innovative! Be free!” the final result is going to be the one that the most dominant person or alliance has come up with.
It’s a jungle in there
The problem with brainstorming in its traditional form is that participants get stuck on ideas.
It’s a phenomenon called cognitive fixation and it works like this: If you talk long/loudly/persistently enough about something, eventually it’s going to be all that anybody can think about too. And other ideas that don’t fit the wavelength can’t emerge or get pushed aside.
Then there’s peer pressure and rejection. It’s very unlikely someone will introduce a radical idea in front of a group of people, especially if the idea will get shot down in flames. Participants are even less likely to speak up if the idea is 30 seconds old and half formed.
Getting brainstorming right
Luckily, there’s a new and more effective way to brainstorm. Get your participants to cook up ideas on their own and then share their ideas in small groups or over email chats. For even more effective ideas, allow for five minute breaks during sessions.