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You’ll occasionally see an article or blog post questioning the value of brainstorming as a tool to generate and improve the quality of innovative business ideas. One criticism about the value of brainstorming usually stems from the “poor” efficiency of brainstorming techniques, since many ideas are generated which never get developed.

This misperception is fostered by “rules” shared at the start of most group brainstorming exercises stating “every idea is a good idea.” This guideline creates a false expectation that every idea shared in the brainstorming session is ultimately good or even implementable.

More accurately, this brainstorming rule sets up a period of divergent thinking. That’s when strong facilitators ensure a focus on generating the maximum number of ideas with minimal explanation and judging.

Ultimately though, judgment isn’t thrown out in brainstorming or innovation processes. It’s only suspended during a good divergent thinking session. The switch has to then be made to convergent thinking where ideas most certainly need to be judged. In practice, maybe 10% of the ideas survive for further consideration, and still fewer for implementation.

Sure the process can seem unruly and unproductive, but for anyone who’s tried to sit at a desk by themselves and think up innovative ideas, the value of brainstorming is clear, and it’s a tremendously beneficial processto use. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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15 Responses to “The Value of Brainstorming Techniques for Business Ideas”

  1. Leonard Lang says:

    Nice clarification. Some people do get impatient with all the “silly” ideas, not realizing that this gets people thinking in new ways as much as it produces a particular number of ideas. Then you need convergent thinking, as you say. In addition, I find most brainstorming sessions don’t know how to do idea extraction–finding the positive and practical value in some of the craziest or silliest ideas. The best known example might be the Neighborhood Watch idea which was developed from the completely silly idea of having police with dozens of eyes all over their body. This became dozens of eyes from the people living on each block.

  2. Marci Segal says:

    Hey Mike,

    Wondering, you are already familiar with online brainstorming tools, have you come across one yet that replaces the sticky notes electronically? Saw one last week at the International Center for Studies in Creativity Expert to Expert conference. Diego Uribe Larach presented this technology, truly amazing! He’s on facebook if you want to connect. Maybe you a friends already. His fb update (of 20 minutes ago) reads “Final chapter manuscript submitted for the book: “Technology for Creativity and Innovation: Tools, Techniques and Applications” :)

  3. Amy says:

    […] anything else, social media measurement isn’t the problem. Measurement is… 3 Tweets Innovation and the Value of Brainstorming | Brainzooming brainstorming as a tool to generate and improve the quality of innovative ideas. One criticism […]

  4. Jonathan Vehar says:

    You are spot on with this. Too many critics of Brainstorming (e.g. Jonah Lehrer at the Front End of Innovation conference) slam it as “thou shalt not judge.” They’re wrong, you’re right: suspend judgment. Makes a huge difference! Thanks for stating it clearly!

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