Where Science Meets Muse

Five (weak) Reasons For Continuing To Use Team Brainstormings

Posted by Plish on January 22, 2009

The Five Reasons Why Team Brainstormings Are Still Done

The Five Reasons Why Team Brainstormings Are Still Done

Can any of us afford to not benefit from the creativity of every individual to the utmost?

If not, why then do we persist in using Team Brainstormings as the Gold Standard for idea generation?  

These are my top 5 reasons why people use team brainstorming:

  1. Team Building– That is true, brainstormings do build teams and create camaraderie.  But if the point of a brainstorming is to come up with lots of high quality ideas, then use the time for exactly that- albeit with some modifications. 
  2. Tradition!– The old, “It’s the way we always come up with great ideas around here,” syndrome.  That’s not a good reason.  That’s the reason why there’s still a market for cuff links.
  3. They Work – To a point, yes, they do.  But, there’s a deception going on because most people don’t have a “control” to compare to so they walk out of meeting with a stack of ideas and plan of attack and think that their well moderated meeting was a success.  The truth is that it could have been more successful!
  4. Two Heads Are Better Than One – This saying is also true to a point. The problem is that people think that if two heads are better, then 12 heads are sublime!  There is another phrase that is apropos for this situation: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
  5. They’re Fun! – I can’t really argue with this, but I know people who do, and they hate and fear team brainstormings!  Unfortunately, these people are super creative. Fortunately, they have been empowered to contribute in different ways so their talents aren’t lost.  This doesn’t mean that idea generation can’t be fun-it is!  But, there are other ways to have fun and come up with more quality ideas.

So, if team brainstormings aren’t the way to go, how should brainstorming be done?

I’ll leave it up to you to supply suggestions on how to increase the quality and quantity of ideas ala brainstorming. 

In the meantime, if you want to gain more insight into why team brainstormings don’t work, the first three pages of this study provide an excellent summary.


17 Responses to “Five (weak) Reasons For Continuing To Use Team Brainstormings”

  1. […] Five (weak) Reasons For Continuing To Use Team Brainstormings […]

  2. Maureen M said

    Already made a suggestion to traditional brainstorming. Mindmapping. Very non-linear thinking and exactly the way the brain works.

  3. Plish said

    Thanks Maureen! Don’t you think mindmapping can be used in a linear fashion?

  4. Maureen M said

    I’m trying to think about how it would work in a linear way. Give me an example of what you are thinking about? I like the way Tony Buzan teaches mindmapping, if you keep it visual and vibrant the mind loves it.

  5. Plish said

    I’m thinking in terms of say using mindmapping as an outline tool vs. a true mindmap, per se. In this way it becomes a means to create a visual outline as opposed to an organized thought cloud. Does this make sense?

  6. Maureen M said

    You can use it for both. I do. I use it to problem solve. I bring out my colored felts and stick the problem in the middle of the page. Then I start creating a visual flow of what I can do. Brainstorming is often “people blurting out the first thing that pops into their heads” and sometimes it piggy backs on what someone else said but a lot of times it doesn’t. This is because, once approached with the the request for suggestions, people’s minds already start coming up with what they think would fit. I’ve used mindmaps to determine life-plans with people who have disabilities. It works really well, especially if everyone is there to have input.

  7. Plish said

    I use it often also to plan talks or create outlines in addition to blue sky type brainstorming.

    Thanks for sharing your techniques-great ideas!!

  8. Maureen M said

    Me too Plish! I belong to Toastmasters and I always talk from a Mindmap.

  9. Plish said

    I think Mindmaps are an untapped resource for planning talks.

  10. Fabian Szulanski said

    When you make the transition from a mindmap to an influence diagram and from the latter to a causal loop diagram, you might start thinking in a non-linear way. Cause and effect relationships aren’t considered “one way” anymore, but as continuous processes.

  11. Plish said

    Thanks for joining in Fabian! Interesting observations. I agree with them to a point. I see non-linearity in a slightly different way. Webster’s New Millenium Dictionary defines Linear Thinking as: “a process of thought following known cycles or step-by-step progression where a response to a step must be elicited before another step is taken”.

    Although influence diagrams and causal loops are multivariable/direction diagrams, they can still be seen in a linear fashion-think a telephone line where information goes both ways. I also see influence diagrams and causal loops as curved linear thinking. Or using the definition above, while the relationships between objects in influence and causal loop diagrams may be non-linear mathematical relationships, the depiction of the thought process follows linear progressions even in the loops, i.e., it’s linear thinking but the road is curved.

    Non-linear thinking however breaks this mode. Anytime we’re generating/reacting-to ideas that are seemingly unrelated we’re venturing non-linearly. It’s driving on one road and instantly, in a quantum world leap, driving on another road, then realizing a relationship between the two roads and constructing a totally new road to travel on. However, contained within these non-linear moments are moments of linear thinking. To this end, mind mapping can be extremely non-linear, but it doesn’t have to be. But when relationships can be forced, in that blink of an eye when a relationship between “dog” and “peanut butter” leads to a new anti-microbial adhesive, that’s when true non-linear thought is occuring.

  12. In fact research shows that “Two Heads Are NOT Better Than One”.

    Two Dutch researchers discovered just the opposite. They write, “Most people believe that idea generation is best performed in groups… However, controlled research has consistently shown that people produce fewer ideas and ideas of lower quality when they work in a group as compared with when they work alone. Thus, contrary to popular belief, group interaction inhibits the ideation process.”

    The full report is available (for a price) at http://psr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/10/3/186

  13. Plish said

    Great research link. There is discussion in the research about ‘nominal groups’ and two people bouncing ideas off each other. There doesn’t seem to be as many problems when two folks are used as opposed to 3 or more. It’s those larger groups that start causing problems of major significance.
    Thanks Bernie for stopping by!

  14. Maureen M said

    “influence diagram and from the latter to a causal loop diagram” what are these?

  15. Fabian Szulanski said

    Some info in
    It is not exact science what’s the difference between the two, but for instance, influence diagrams may or may not contain a closed influence loop, while a causal loop diagram must contain at least one causal feedback loop.

  16. Plish said

    Thanks Fabian for the references-great stuff!

    I’ve also seen versions of influence diagrams that marketing groups use. Same basic concept just different “design” so that things like box shapes, etc. aren’t as important.

  17. […] think it’s true? Just check this post here and my post regarding brainstorming and you’ll see the passion with which people argue for […]

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