Couched in the headline "Brainstorming doesn't work", The New Yorker explains that brainstorming where you just throw out ideas and see what sticks has no better track record than sitting down and trying to consciously come up with good solutions. Even in groups, brainstorming won't work on its own — at least not until you take the next step and critically examine each idea, regardless of who submitted it or how.
We've discussed how important brainstorming even bad ideas is to beating creativity blocks, but brainstorming ideas alone isn't enough. You have to take the next step and critically evaluate each idea for quality and applicability — something many people don't do. They blame, at least partially, the notion of "no criticism", where employees are encouraged to share ideas first without evaluating them for quality, and there's no process subsequent to the brainstorming session where each idea is critically and objectively examined to see if it has legs, or it best solves the problem at hand.
The moral of the story is that brainstorming does work, and that you need bad ideas to bring out the good ones, but idea generation is just one part of the brainstorming process — one that too many people stop after. The next step is to separate yourself from those ideas and review them later with a critical eye to determine which ones can take flight.
Is this how you normally brainstorm, or have you been part of groups that toss every idea against the wall and then wind up choosing the worst ones because no one's allowed to critique someone else's idea? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Photo by Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock.