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Brainstorming: a Myth?

| On 01, Jan 2010

Message: 1480
Posted by: Claude Meylan
Posted on: Wednesday, 19th November 2008


Often accepted as a common way to get ideas, according to my own experience, a brainstorming session doesn't necessarily lead to the expected breakthrough ideas, even with help of the best methods, like TRIZ. Any experience to share about how to combine efficient teamwork and creative thinking?


Message: 1481
Posted by: Dave Verduyn
Posted on: Wednesday, 19th November 2008


In my opinion, a ÒBrainstorming sessionÓ can be very effective and has 3 main elements for success.  It’s success is a function of: 1) The brains in the room, 2) The effectiveness of the facilitator, and 3) The tools you use.  When any one of these elements are weak or missing the success of the session is at risk.  Having said that, here is some advice for #1 Ð Get people with the following characteristics: Integrity, Attitude, Passion, Curiosity, Knowledge, Work Ethic, Trust, Flexibility, and Persistence.  For #2, Have the type of  facilitator that keeps the process on track, motivates active participation, has a deep understanding of the Òtools and techniquesÓ being used, and has an optimistic character.  For #3, research effective ÒTeam toolsÓ, there are many and I believe TRIZ tools can be very effective when put in the hands of a good facilitator and good brains!  There are also several Ònon-TRIZÓ tools like Ethnography, Trend Analysis, Scope Expansion, Value Engineering, Painstorming, and many, many more.  Contact me and I can elaborate on anything above.  Looking forward to hearing others responses.


Message: 1483
Posted by: Prakash
Posted on: Wednesday, 19th November 2008


In my experience, Brainstorming is an overused word for anything and everything, especially before getting in to a meeting without any idea what should be the goal. Having experienced several such situations, I don't like to call Brainstorming anymore, but call it is as problem exploration (if we need to understand the problem well), or ideation (for solution generation). The change in the terminology itself is effective, as it would have been created a different perception among the participants. (They have attended too many “brainstorming” meeting in their lives – can't blame them….)Changing the terminology and with effective thinking techniques like TRIZ, Forced association, SCAMPER etc should give you better results in your meeting. Use 6 thinking hat for controlling the emotions, MindMap for not taking (Will help in visual intelligence)..


Message: 1490
Posted by: Javier de la Cruz
Posted on: Tuesday, 25th November 2008


In my experience what we do normally here is to sit around 4 to 5 people in a round table, each of the members has a sheet paper, everybody already knows which the problem is and it was already divided into sub problem. (For an easy comprehension)

After this each of the members write one idea, the first that come to their minds, and you have 30 seconds to 1 minute, after this the paper sheets are rotated clockwise and then the action is repeated, 30 seconds to 1 minute and the person should write and idea that comes to his mind after reading the one that is already in the paper and so on.

This helps to make a good brainstorming with a combination of ideas, normally this result in very good ideas.

Maybe you can try this, you could be surprise!


Message: 1498
Posted by: Jack Hipple
Posted on: Tuesday, 2nd December 2008


There are two primary limitations of brainstorming. First, as you said, the brains in the room. People who have no experience outside their area cannot suggest an idea they cannot comprehend. For example, if you are brainstorming a problem relating to liquid-solid separation, everyone normally thinks about centrifuges (washing machines) and ideates around this basic principle or something even simpler such as gravity separation or flotation. No one will suggest that the spinning a device can actually cause a material to move perpendicular to the applied force (unless they have seen bakery dough spin!). There is a specific technical law called the Waissenberg effect that predicts this, but if you are not aware of it, you will not suggest this approach to separation. The second point is that the basic assumption around brainstorming is that quantity is what is important since 99% of ideas will not be worth pursuing. Therefore 1000 raw ideas are better than 100, etc. This is a huge waste of mental energy. If one spends sufficient time upfront defining the problem, it will not be necessary to generate huge numbers of useless ideas. That is the power and beauty of TRIZ–there are a limited number of problem solution paths and inventive principles and if one spends the time to “genericize” the problem and stop using special words and acronyms, a small targeted number of solutions can be found in a much shorter period of time.


Message: 1503
Posted by: Rob Tillaart
Posted on: Tuesday, 9th December 2008


Brainstorming will never provide a good idea. (please don't shoot 🙂 It is the convergation phase after the brainstorm that decides if an idea is worth further elaboration or not. The brainstorm itself will only generate ideas, and it is succesfull if it has generated a lot of (different, provocative etc) ideas. From the three elements Dave mentions the facilitator is the most important. There are zillions of so called “brainstorms” without one and yes it are creative processes but they are no brainstorms in my opinion.

Another very important factor for the effectiveness of a brainstorm is a good problem formulation(s). This should include a “measure stick” to test the quality of the ideas generated. This measure stick is not to be told to the stormers as it could “block” them. Defining a good formulation is not easy and the facilitator must take care it before the brainstorm starts. She even must prepare different good formulations of the same problem to create as many different angles to the problem as possible.

The final factor for the effectiveness of any creative process is the willingness (management) to make resources available to implement/build the best idea. “there is no time to sharpen the axes, we must cut wood..”

sofar my 2 cents,rob


Message: 1504
Posted by: Drew Boyd
Posted on: Tuesday, 9th December 2008


Claude, this is a high priority topic for many.

Bottom line is that innovation is a team sport. But you need a proven method to facilitate it. The clinical studies on traditional brainstorming are not encouraging, so I do not recommend it.


Message: 1509
Posted by: Vin
Posted on: Tuesday, 16th December 2008


yeah that's perfectly right brainstorming is not just a word its a kind of exploration of your own mind planning for whats next.. i think you will agree with me right?Vin


Message: 1510
Posted by: P.L.Narasimhan
Posted on: Wednesday, 17th December 2008


Dr.P.L.NarasimhanWith my long experience in Innovation I feel that brainstorming in general is only a catchy word and in real application it does not serve the purpose. In fact the original idea get diluted or has to be compromised.In discussion and arguments if you find persons equally knowledgeable in related areas, or gives enrichment to the the idea or serious enough to give constructive comments,then involve them in the brainstorming.