Brainstorming Doesn’t Work

Dateline: March 29, 2013

Welcome to our Friday WRAP – one thought-provoking idea to think about over the weekend.

A recent Fast Company article, Why Innovation by Brainstorming Doesn’t Work, caught my eye.  Author Debra Kaye shared some thoughts on innovation from her recent book, Red Thread Thinking.  She begins by saying that “anything, even doing laundry, will help you dream up new ideas better than sitting in a meeting.”  She describes a typical brainstorming session where a team free associates ideas in a meeting in a conference room, producing a great list of ideas, but nothing really out of the box spectacular.  Here’s why:

The conventional wisdom that innovation can be institutionalized or done in a formal group is simply wrong. Part of what we know about the brain makes it clear why the best new ideas don’t emerge from formal brainstorming. First, the brain doesn’t make connections in a rigid atmosphere. There is too much pressure and too much influence from others in the group. The “free association” done in brainstorming sessions is often shackled by peer pressure and as a result generates obvious responses. In fact, psychologists have documented the predictability of free association.

Instead, she suggests,

Fresh ideas come when your brain is relaxed and engaged in something other than the particular problem you’re embroiled in. … This is the polar opposite of what happens in brainstorming sessions. Long showers, soaks in a tub, long walks, or doing chores are frequently when those “synapses” that find alternative solutions to a problem in new ways all hit together so that the big idea can spring.

How do you and your team come up with fresh ideas?

That’s a WRAP!  Have a wonderful weekend.

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