I frequently find myself disenchanted with brainstorming sessions the way in which they are typically organized.
- Groupthink where everyone is influenced by everyone else
- A big personality (or the boss) in the room steamrolls over everyone else’s ideas
- A collection of ill-formed opinions vs. facts (as Rich states in his blog)
- Descending into idea evaluation
Also, I’m not convinced by the old saw that “all ideas are equally good.” They aren’t and it can be a waste of time if you’ve got the wrong group of people in the room doing the brainstorming, and even worse if the individuals who actually do know what they are talking about get shouted down by individuals who have no clue whatsoever.
Not all collaboration is good collaboration and even fewer brainstorming sessions are any good for these reasons.
There are ways around this. I rather like Rich’s idea about going away first and doing some research. Get knowledgeable. Talk to people who are experts. Read some books and blogs. Get dirty in the research. Come to the table with more than opinion.
As for the other downfalls of brainstorming sessions. There are some approaches you can take to avoid groupthink. Google has an approach. In fact, Google thinks about better brainstorming a lot. I’m also rather fond of using a version of Lean Coffee for brainstorming, especially among groups whose members may not be familiar with each other.
If you’ve gotta use brainstorming, what do you do or use to make it better?