The Myth of Outside the Box Thinking: Why Brainstorming and Other Such Techniques Are Your Worst Enemy

by | Nov 10, 2020 | Google, Idea Generation, Innovation Method | 0 comments

How many brainstorming sessions have you been in? What really came out of it? What was the process like for you? How did you feel about it? 

You probably think brainstorming isn’t that bad. But research after research actually shows that brainstorming doesn’t work.


Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work


  1. It’s very unproductive. Five pairs of people can outperform one group of 10 on any task. But in brainstorming, you work as one group, so it’s highly unproductive.
  2. You can’t focus. It can be distracting when you’re there sitting and checking on your phone and doing other things while listening to the person talking. 
  3. You’ve got a lot of issues with competition. People are trying to outcompete each other and they’re undermining each other. They throw a little shade on each other during these sessions. 


Why Brainstorming Does a Lot of Damage


  1. It diverts energy from doing real innovation using methods that have been proven to work like the systematic inventive thinking or SIT method, lateral thinking, and TRIZ.
  2. It sucks energy and budget.
  3. It biases people to think that there are certain creatives, and then there are people that are not creative. Creativity is a skill that anybody can learn but brainstorming creates that one-sided view.


The Fallacy of Deferring Judgment


One of the rules of brainstorming is that you have to defer judgment on the ideas. That way, people feel free to offer any ideas they want. But research shows otherwise. 

In fact, when you’re about to offer an idea, and you know that everybody has been told to withhold the idea, you still know they’re thinking about the idea. They’re still judging you whether they’re saying anything or not. So this causes you to look around the room and play it safe because you don’t want them to think you’re crazy.


What to Do When You’re Pulled Into a Brainstorming Session


Try to steer the group to adopt these few ideas:

  1. Don’t work as one big group. Break the group into pairs and give each pair just one part of the problem.
  2. Put constraints around the problem. Constraints are a necessary condition for creativity to happen. Put constraints on the system upfront. Use time limits. People work harder and smarter when they have to be under some sort of constraints of time. 
  3. Be sure to capture ideas right away and immediately throw out the bad ideas. This idea of deferred judgment, it’s just wrong. It doesn’t make sense to go forward with an idea that doesn’t make any sense. Let it die right there. 

To hear more on how you produce higher quality ideas, listen to the full podcast episode here: Episode 015: The Myth of Outside the Box Thinking: Why Brainstorming and Other Such Techniques Are Your Worst Enemy