People come up with good ideas every day. But it often takes many ideas to inspire true innovation, overcome business challenges, or disrupt an entire industry.
For most companies, the way to generate ideas is brainstorming. But how well does brainstorming work? Your ability to achieve success through brainstorming involves more than a set of processes or techniques. It’s about understanding what you’re trying to accomplish to begin with.
What is the main purpose of brainstorming?
Initially, this will mean quantity over quality. But that’s ok because good ideas can be refined into even greater ones later on. Sometimes simply discussing your possible solutions will lead everyone to consider different viewpoints or explore new opportunities they wouldn’t have before.
This is why brainstorming should be seen more as a journey than the destination itself.
Does brainstorming work?
Brainstorming works on many levels when it’s conducted well. It can unlock creativity within groups or disciplines not always known for imagination or innovation. Brainstorming can help unify a team and transform work colleagues into fast friends, rallied around one shared purpose or goal.
Of course, if you’re asking “Is brainstorming effective?” as it relates to your business, the question becomes a matter of finding a brainstorming approach that works best for you.
Types of brainstorming
There are many brainstorming techniques and processes at your disposal, all of which can be employed for use in one of two key brainstorming session formats.
If you’re looking to tap into the most creative potential at once, try group brainstorming. It utilizes the synergy of an entire room at a rate greater than the sum of each individual. It’s particularly good if your company is seeking solutions for more complex problems.
Yet in some circumstances, a group brainstorming session may prove less effective. To determine if group brainstorming makes sense for your situation, first look at the pros:
- More people, more solutions: With the added brainpower of a large group, you get more ideas. More choices can lead to idea associations that you can bounce back and forth to uncover new solutions until everyone adds their own missing piece.
- Better use of limited time: There are moments when you’re tasked to figure out more than a new solution. Maybe it’s turning around a failing product launch or convincing a client to stay onboard. Tight deadlines benefit from using a group to arrive at a solution that considers more aspects faster.
- Fosters greater camaraderie: A group brainstorming session allows employees to do more than solve problems. People who don’t usually work together build relationships and break down silos while getting invested in a shared outcome.
There are also cons to keep in mind before engaging in a group brainstorming session.
- Groupthink harms originality: Despite its collaborative energy, hosting a group brainstorming session and making decisions as a team can crush creativity or suppress individual responsibility for results.
- Collabs turn into free-for-alls: A brainstorming session with several participants can quickly descend into side conversations with little focus on actionable ideas. With positive pressure, time limits for ideation, and review afterward, it can work.
- One person usually takes over: Chalk it up to human nature, but even in a group brainstorming session dominant personalities may crush other ideas in favor of their own. Polite, yet firm redirection and asking others by name for ideas can counter this.
A group brainstorming session isn’t always the right choice. If you’re tasked with solving a simple problem, producing a list of possible ideas, or focusing on a general issue, individual brainstorming might be more effective. It helps people feel freer creatively and less influenced by other opinions or distractions.
Just like group brainstorming, the individual brainstorming session has its own share of pros and cons to consider beforehand. Here are some pros about individual brainstorming:
- Better focus, better ideas: In a group setting, it’s easy for people to get distracted or pay too much attention to everyone else rather than producing their own ideas. In an individual brainstorming session, you don’t have to wait your turn to ideate.
- No chance for conflict: When doing a brainstorming session on your own, it can be refreshing to not worry about other people’s egos or opinions. You feel freer to pursue ideas you’d otherwise hesitate to bring up or suggest in a group setting.
- Less planning, more impromptu: Getting groups together, finding an agreed upon time to meet, and assigning someone to facilitate a group brainstorming session takes time and resources. An individual brainstorming session can be spontaneous.
Some of the cons that people encounter in an individual brainstorming session include:
- Ideas not fully developed: When people are working on their own they don’t get the opportunity to bounce ideas off of others for their perspective. Counter this by soliciting outside viewpoints.
- The absence of synergy: Working independently can be great, until it’s not. The individual brainstorming session can quickly transform into an echo chamber. If brainstorming solo, we fail to see past our biases. So run your ideas past others.
- Running into a creative slowdown: Without a room of people surrounding us to keep the momentum going, it’s easy to get writer’s block with generating ideas. Taking breaks, creating deadlines, or minimizing distractions can help with this.
Given the pros and cons of the group brainstorming session or individual brainstorming session, the question remains: is brainstorming effective or not? The answer is yes. But there are things you can do to make your next brainstorming session more effective…
Tips for making your next brainstorming session more effective
Using an online brainstorming tool like Lucidspark helps combine the best aspects of the individual group brainstorming sessions. It provides you with the tools, environment, and flexibility to generate and share ideas with your group.
Lucidspark’s dynamic workspace encourages equal participation from everyone in the group, introverts and extroverts alike. People who won’t speak openly or freely in a group setting feel more empowered when they can engage with team members on a virtual whiteboard at their workspace.
Lucidspark also features helpful tools to keep a brainstorming session moving forward toward consensus. After facilitating an energetic, productive meeting with your team, all of the best ideas you’ve generated can be accessed later online by everyone.
If you’re looking for tried-and-true methods to employ for an upcoming brainstorming session, there are a number of Lucidspark templates to get the creative juices flowing.
- The sticky notes template is just what it sounds like. It provides you with a set of virtual sticky notes for jotting down ideas and sharing with the team in real time.
- The reverse brainstorming template allows team members to solve problems by examining the causes and impact of ideas before identifying potential solutions.
- The Disney creative strategy template unlocks creativity by introducing ideation from three views: the Dreamer (vision), the Critic (logic), and the Realist (action).
Whichever brainstorming session type, style, or technique you prefer is largely up to you. It comes down to experimenting and seeing what works best for you and your team.
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