• Evelyne

New Ideas in Brainstorming

Updated: Oct 18, 2019



Brainstorming sessions can be amazing. When left unfettered, brilliant minds can come up with some fantastical ideas that somehow get massaged into incredibly effective strategies. I love the process. I know many of you do as well.


But there’s one thing wrong with brainstorming. Not everyone’s voice or idea always gets the attention and recognition it deserves.  Asa  result, lots of amazing and creative ideas are never discussed and considered.  Why is that?


Simply put – the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In other words, the people or ideas that are loudest or first to be presented will tend to monopolize the discussion. Here’s why.


In traditional brainstorming, everyone in the room shouts out ideas. Ideally, tons of ideas will flow out of the team like the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara. What tends to happen is that the first ideas are put forth by the loudmouths of the group who launch into explaining the advantages of their brain trust. These early discussions have a great influence on the rest of the session.  There is also something called the anchoring effect, where the first ideas are explored and the later ones not.  As a result, other ideas, from the less vocal members of the team, tend to either then get overlooked or not put forth at all.


Strangely, a process that is supposed to foster creativity, ends up being less creative since only the first ideas get discussed. Often the most vocal people aren’t necessarily the most creative, but they are persistent, persuasive and are able to steer the conversation to focus on them.


What often happens is that the obvious things getting the most discussion and time runs out for serious consideration of the more creative, and sometimes out of the box, ideas. The best but quieter thinkers draw back and do not participating as fully as possible.


We’ve all been in these meetings. The office loudmouth monopolized the discussion with his obvious and boring idea or declaration. We roll our eyes and wonder why we are even there.


There’s got to be a better way.


There’s a technique I find much more useful that has been around for almost 50 years. It’s called Brainwriting.


Here’s how it’s done.

  1. Before the meeting, or in the first 10 minutes of the meeting, everyone is given the challenge and is asked to write their ideas on index cards.

  2. All the index cards – with NO NAMES attached – are collected and posted on a board. Obviously some of the ideas are a little far-fetched, but most will fall into logical categories.

  3. Everyone reviews the ideas and votes on which to eliminate and which to retain for further discussion. Those remaining can be categorized and grouped according to some logical organization.

  4. Category by category, each is discussed and further refined. If working on a huge strategy session, you may want to split up into groups with categories assigned.

  5. In this way everyone’s ideas can be discussed for its merit. Often multiple concepts from many ideas are merged into a single cohesive one.

Next time you need a brainstorming session, try this technique. It may cut down on the issues surrounding in stronger personalities dominance and you may just get some great new creative ideas!


Happy Brainstorming!

#mentoring #brainstorming #problemsolving #staffdevelopment #meetings

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