07 Aug The Top Five Reasons Why Brainstorms Flop
People often think brainstorming is a complete waste of time and often it is. However, it can also be a highly productive and fun experience where the room is buzzing and great ideas are almost bouncing off the walls. Here are the five key reasons why brainstorms flop and what to do…
1. The Facilitator Is Just Scribing – If the facilitator is just scribing, they are crazily trying to capture all the ideas on the white board and what’s happening behind their back is that one or two extroverted people are shouting out all their ideas and dominating the session. My trick to getting around this is to simply say “Who haven’t I heard from”. In that moment the extroverts pipe down and amazingly the introverts always start speaking up with lots of great ideas. Make sure you ask someone else to be the scribe while you facilitate (control) the brainstorm
2. The Challenge Isn’t Defined – People often get lazy and kick off the brainstorm by reading through a three page brief. After reading through the whole brief they then settle on the business objective to be the brainstorm challenge. Firstly, when you find the time to get your whole team together in a room for an hour, that is a luxury so don’t waste it by reading through a brief that could have been emailed in advance. Secondly, the business objective is usually something like “how to raise awareness” or “How to sell more units”. Going into a brainstorm with such an uninspiring dull, business like challenge will not spark creativity! Find a way in and craft a challenge statement ahead of time that is fun, juicy and makes participants excited about the brainstorm. An example from a recent vitamin brand I worked on – Rather than the brainstorm challenge being, “how to get people to take brand X vitamin every morning” a more exciting brainstorm challenge is “How to become as important as a morning coffee”
3. The Challenge Is Too Broad – If the challenge is too broad you will get ideas that cover too much ground and the brainstorm will jump from idea to idea with no structure. You will finish the brainstorm with half baked thoughts rather than some fully fleshed out big ideas. Make sure you break your challenge up into mini challenges and tackle each challenge separately
4. Ideas Are Shut Down Prematurely – Think about it, nothing truly innovative ever sounded normal when it was first thought of. Take the iPhone for example – imagine the first time someone said we are going to create a mobile phone with 1 button rather than the normal 13 buttons. How about the ATM – lets put boxes on the street and fill them up with thousands of dollars of cash so that people don’t have to walk into the bank. Seemingly ridiculous ideas can often be brilliant ideas if you let them breathe. Learn to defer judgement of crazy ideas as they often turn into something great
5. No Divergent Techniques Are Used – It can be hard to get people in a room and expect them to come up with brilliant ideas. Often the first 15 minutes are good and then the ideas can run dry. Divergent thinking techniques are great for sending the brain down unfamiliar pathways helping us come up with highly creative ideas. An example of a technique that I love is Brands We Envy – have participants choose a brand that is outside the industry of your challenge. (Nike, Red Bull, The Body Shop) They must come up with ideas for the challenge based on the way that other brand would solve it. Recently we came up with a new innovation for a supermarket checkout based on something an insurance company does.
Please keep these five things in mind next time you facilitate a brainstorm and good luck! Contact me if you would like to discuss Innovation, Creativity and Ideas training for your workplace. If you would like to attend an open course for Idea Generation Masterclass or our Advanced Facilitator Training, please email with your expression of interest. If you liked this newsletter, please share it with your friends and colleagues.