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Business Creativity & Innovation

Why Brainstorming Is BAD

No, BAD is not an acronym. I simply hate brainstorming and try to avoid it wherever possible. This stems from an introduction (many years ago) to the type of brainstorming that we all hate – sitting round a table with a pile of Post-It notes being told by the boss to come up with ideas. I objected because we never got anywhere and a great deal of time was wasted.

Some people do, however, use brainstorming and have some success. There are a significant number of people who do not. Why is this?

Simples, as a well known Meerkat might say (apologies if you live outside the UK). Creative problem solving is a series of phases which alternate in using convergent and divergent thinking (focusing on one thing or generating many options). If you wish to generate ideas you need to know the objective. What are you generating ideas for and is it really the right thing to be doing? This is convergent thinking and needs to be done and there are even creative techniques for this part of the process.

Next comes a divergent phase to generate options. This is where brainstorming comes in. All techniques can be categorised according to whether they are convergent/divergent, group/solo etc so it is essential to use the correct type of technique in corresponding phase. So use brainstorming for divergence – it is a divergent technique. And this is where those who tried to get me started went terribly wrong.

We sat round a table using a divergent technique to ‘solve a problem’ without working out exactly what the problem was. The only way this would have worked is by pure luck (and we never got lucky). There are other issues of course regarding environment, group make up etc but if you use the wrong tool for the job it is not going to work no matter how hard you try.

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