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When you need to generate solutions to a problem, your first instinct is probably to suggest a brainstorming session. But is brainstorming the right technique to use? Art Markman points to a series of research findings that show that brainstorming doesn’t work and what to do to fix brainstorming’s deficiencies. Some of the lessons include letting people work alone first, taking your time, and encouraging people to draw. (via @abmarkman)
“We’re all familiar with traditional brainstorming as a way to produce new ideas. You sit in a room with a whiteboard and work with whatever comes to mind. Maybe you play a few rounds of word association to strengthen your ideas, or pull up Google and use research to flesh them out. But there are many alternative exercises for tackling problems and developing new ideas, both individually and in a group setting.” Dani Mansfield shares 15 creative brainstorming exercises and techniques to help you get your problem-solving juices flowing. (via @danimansfield)
“Does brainstorming ever feel like a total waste of time? You believe it’s necessary to get your team’s input on a topic, but the session usually just turns into a few people bickering, and the other participants saying nothing at all.” Brianna Hansen reminds us that brainstorming is about quantity over quality and that there is more than one way to brainstorm ideas. To help you generate a large quantity of quality ideas, she shares seven techniques that you can use in your next brainstorming session. (via @bribrifoodie)
“When developing new products and strategies, coming up with unique ideas is often a struggle. It is one of the reasons why, in any industry, there is so much repetition.” There are several ways you can incorporate brainstorming into your new product development work. Bobette Kyle suggests to of her favorite techniques – utilizing goodie bags and skimming business publications. (via @BobetteKyle)
“Sometimes the solution to a project issue can be really hard to find. Team members can come up with many bright ideas in their own mind, so it’s useful to sit down together, identify the problem, verbalize solutions and see what sticks.” Alexander Sergeev introduces two brainstorming techniques – How-Now-Wow Matrix and Buy a feature – that you can use to generate as many possible solutions as possible. (via @hygger_app)
Leigh Thompson’s study into Brainstorming revealed that “candor led to greater creativity“. If participants of a Brainstorming session are each asked to describe an embarrassing moment that they once experienced, this team will generate “26% more ideas spanning 15% more use categories than their counterparts”.
Joining the many other approaches suggested for undertaking a Brainstorming session is this one from Jonathan Courtney. He was inspired by story mapping in agile development which applies structure and identifiable outcomes to feature planning. In his team’s approach, participants use Post-it notes to map out user journeys whose actions are then grouped together in more generalized buckets. Then the Brainstorming starts and the group is asked to “come up with ideas on how your product or service could affect or interact with the user’s life“.
While Jake Knapp’s article is primarily focused on heralding the advantages of his Design Sprint framework, he also does a great job in identifying many of the disadvantages of Brainstorming. He realized while working with teams at Google that there were rarely outcomes from group Brainstorming on which work was done afterward. And Brainstorming generally produced shallow ideas and opinionated decisions.
McKinsey believes that many brainstorming sessions are wasted by not initially defining the limits a company has to execute the resulting ideas. In a process that they call brainsteering (a verb we could probably do without), there are seven (there’s that number again) rules that will help you avoid problems such as producing groundbreaking technical solutions that your IT department wouldn’t possibly allow. They disagree that aiming for a lot of ideas will be productive and instead suggest you ask pointed questions to elicit creative responses. They also push you to limit certain questions to people who are experienced enough to answer them.
A great place to start looking for inspiration is at IDEO, a globally renowned product design firm whose business is to come up with innovative ideas. Their rules, as learned by Linda Tischler, are strictly enforced and include sharpening the focus on specific customer needs, allowing only one conversation at a time (and without criticisms) and agreeing on a set number of ideas to be created to force the group to think beyond the obvious, low hanging ideas.