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Mar 6th, 2024 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

The Brainstorming Delusion

The beloved brainstorm. The darling child of corporate innovation. The magic bullet that will solve all our creative woes.

Or so we’ve been told.

Brainstorms are a colossal waste of time.

They’re the equivalent of trying to catch fish by throwing a bunch of hooks into the water and hoping something bites. It’s inefficient, ineffective, and frankly, a bit delusional.

So why do brainstorms fail so miserably? Let’s break it down:

Production Blocking: The Waiting Game

In most brainstorms, only one person can speak at a time. While others wait their turn, their ideas evaporate faster than a puddle in the Sahara. Even worse, as people hear similar ideas, they second-guess their own, leading to a vicious cycle of self-censorship. Studies have shown that the larger the group, the more pronounced this problem becomes. It’s like trying to have a meaningful conversation at a crowded bar—good luck with that.

Evaluation Apprehension: The Fear Factor

Let’s face it, most people are terrified of being judged by their peers. In a group setting, this fear is amplified tenfold. Participants clam up, afraid to share anything remotely unconventional for fear of ridicule. And who usually suggests the brainstorm in the first place? The big cheese at the top of the org chart. Is it any wonder most ideas come from their end of the table? It’s a classic case of power dynamics stifling creativity.

Free Riding: The Disposable Idea Syndrome

The more ideas a group generates, the less each individual idea seems to matter. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack, except the haystack keeps getting bigger with each passing minute. As the quantity of ideas balloons, their perceived value plummets. People become less invested in their contributions, viewing them as disposable rather than precious. And when people feel their ideas don’t matter, they stop sharing the really good stuff.

The Illusion of Productivity

But the real kicker? Brainstorms make us feel productive, even when we’re spinning our wheels. There’s something satisfying about filling up a whiteboard with post-it notes, even if 99% of them are useless. It’s the illusion of progress, the false sense of accomplishment. But in reality, we’re just going through the motions, patting ourselves on the back for a job not-so-well done.

The alternative? Ditch the group ideation sessions and embrace individual creativity. Give people the time and space to think deeply, without the pressure of performing for an audience. Encourage them to bring their fully-formed ideas to the table, rather than half-baked notions thrown out on the fly. And most importantly, create a culture where dissent and unconventional thinking are celebrated, not stifled.

Now excuse me, I have some thinking to do…

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