Making Brainstorming Work

Making Brainstorming Work

One of the most important skill that businesses need to develop is their ability to continuously innovate and stay ahead of their competition.

One of the meta skills that organisations will need to develop if they are to flex their innovation muscle is the ability to do great brainstorming sessions.

Earlier in the day, I stumbled onto the below video in which Bill Burnett talks about practices that can help you make your next brainstorming session highly productive.

Before, I share my views on this topic, pls take a few minutes to actually watch the video below.

Top Reasons why brainstorming sessions fail:

Too Less or Too Many people involved in the session.

Ideally, a brainstorming session works really well, when you have about 5-6 people as part of the group. Any less and you don’t have diversity and any more, it only adds confusion and a lot of complex group dynamics.

Lack of diversity of thought among the participants.

Brainstorming usually involves in coming up with different options or ideas, which means that you need to have people with different perspectives, which allows them to see the challenge from different angles and hence come up with different ideas. If everyone in the team thinks in a similar way, we end up with a situation of group-think, which generally carries a lot more risk of failure than of success.

One person dominates the discussion.

There are times when, you have someone senior leader in the group or an extrovert and if left to themselves, they have the ability to dominate the discussion, thereby killing the participation and engagement of the juniors and introverts in the team.

Lack of good facilitation or wrong prompts.

In general, all brainstorming sessions should be facilitated by someone. It’s best if the facilitator is someone from a different team (or an external consultant) who understands how brainstorming works. A lot of times, people get stuck and are unable to come up with original ideas. It is then the responsibility of the facilitator to use prompts to elicit creative ideas from the team.

Good facilitators add great value as they are able to break mental models and allow the teams to breakthrough their internal barriers to come up with extremely creative ideas. They allow the teams to make conceptual leaps to achieve high levels of creativity.

If you don't have a good facilitator, the session already starts on a weak footing. Click To Tweet

Process not done right.

In my experience, I have found that brainstorming works best, when you allow individuals to ideate by themselves and then discuss all these ideas as a group, with clear guidelines on what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

Its usually a good idea to ask team to generate ideas by themselves, then share their ideas with the team . This allows the introverts & juniors members in the team to get their ideas heard.

No feedback is allowed when the ideas are being shared. Once all the ideas have been shared, similar ideas are categorised or clustered together. It is only at this stage that the teams can seek/provide feedback on each cluster.

Feedback like “This wont work” or “cant work” or “we have tried this earlier” are accepted and parked. If you have identified an idea as falling in one of these categories, you park the idea and move on. Once all other ideas are exhausted, the team then needs to discuss and explore how to make the ideas work instead of focusing on why they wont or cant work. If post this deliberation, the teams are not able to come up with ways to make the idea work, then they can still leave the ideas parked.

Process not completed:

Having all these ideas categorised and captured (maybe in a pic) is not the end of the process. The ideas still need to be prioritised using some framework. My favourite is the Desirability, Viability and Feasibility filter. Owners to be identified for each idea that gets selected. The owners need to agree upon a date/time/venue where they will share the first prototype of the ideas for feedback.


The ability to do highly productive brainstorming is like a keystone habit for organisation if they want to build their innovation capacity. When done well, these sessions are highly productive and if not done well, a colossal waste of time, money and effort.

Do share if you have any tips or ideas that make your brainstorming sessions rock.

PBTO10: Creativity, Innovation & Anti-Conventional Thinking

Jeffrey Baumgartner
Jeffrey Baumgartner
Jeffrey Baumgartner

Who is Jeffrey?

In this episode, we host Jeffrey Baumgartner. He is an entrepreneur, artist, teacher, author and an innovation consultant and not  your typical Innovation consultant.

He is the author of the book, “The Way of the Innovation Master” & “The Insane Journey

He is also the creator of a new & effective creative thinking methodology called “Anti-Conventional Thinking” as an alternative to traditional brainstorming methods.

He also runs the Report 103, which is one of the longest running eJournal or blog on creativity and innovation in business.

Why is he on the show

He is not your typical innovation consultant or author. He is a great guy, who understands the psychology behind creativity and has a great sense of humor.

What are we talking about

In this episode, we talk about creativity and innovation. We also talk about why brainstorming doesn’t work if one wants to come up with truly creative ideas anymore and the core tenets of “Anti Conventional Thinking (ACT for short).

We also talk about how can individuals and organizations come up with creative ideas and implement them to succeed.

We also cover ideas around how small businesses or start-ups can use the tenets of ACT and use innovation as their competitive advantage to compete with large incumbents.

We also talk about how the most innovative companies don’t have a separate innovation agenda, continuous innovation is the way they do business.

Insight: Something that is Obvious but we miss totally

We also talk about the fact that, though everyone talks about the importance of creative ideas and innovation, in reality, we don’t really like truly creative ideas and passively and sometimes actively work to negate the truly creative ideas.

I had a lot of fun and learnt a lot through the conversation. Hope you do so as well.

Who and why should you listen

If at any point in time, you are required to come up with creative ideas in your role as a professional or as a parent, you need to listen to this discussion.

Your turn

If you liked the episode, please do share your love by writing a review or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher and share this with your friends and teams.

You can also watch his videos on Youtube and I recommend that you subscribe to his eJournal Report 103.

The Seven Core Tenets of Anticonventional Thinking

The Seven Core Tenets of Anticonventional Thinking.

This makes a very interesting read. Most of the tenets of ACT (anti-conventional thinking) goes against traditional brainstorming or idea generation processes. I guess that is why it is called Anti-conventional.

Though I agree with most of what is being subscribed, I have to say that this is very difficult process to use in a traditional organization.

This needs highly creative and self-assured people, who can take criticism,  build on ideas (thiers and others), and trust each other a lot! If any of the above are not present, this could be a recepie for disaster.

This said, I do think that if you want breakthrough ideas, this could be the way to go. Just involve a small team made of people who are self-assured and trust each other, let them go through the process and I am sure, you will get some really amazing ideas.